Latino adolescents have higher prevalence of alcohol consumption and binge drinking, start using drugs and alcohol earlier, and are at greater risk of developing addiction due to early use. It has been well documented that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as abuse and neglect, significantly increase the risk for alcohol misuse. ACEs also affect HPA axis functioning and alter cortisol levels that can lead to mental health problems and alcohol use. More recently, epigenetic studies have uncovered that methylation of HPA axis genes affect cortisol levels and increase the risk for alcohol use disorder. More integrative research is needed to understand how biological and environmental factors interact to increase the vulnerability for alcohol misuse. To obtain a more nuanced understanding of mechanisms leading to alcohol misuse, we hypothesize influences at the psychological (traumatic stressors), biological (genetics, endocrine), interpersonal (family cohesion), and cultural (values) level and identify paths of risk and resilience. The proposed study will sample Latino adolescents (N= 150) and collect stress biomarkers collection (i.e., hair cortisol, saliva DNA methylation).

Our specific aims are as follows:

Aims 1 and 2. Assess the impact of ACEs on alcohol abuse and identify relevant protective factors (aim 1), evaluate the role of HPA axis functioning (hair cortisol) in the ACEs-alcohol misuse link and identify relevant protective factors (aim 2)

Aim 3. Explore epigenetic mechanisms (saliva DNA methylation) linking ACEs and HPA axis functioning (hair cortisol).

Funding Acknowledgement: This project is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Grant/Award Number: K08AA029150 (PI: Zhen-Duan)

This project is part of the parent project "Latino Youth Coping with Discrimination: A Multi-Level Investigation in Micro- and Macro-Time,” funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Grant Number 1R01MD014737-01A1 (PI: Alegría).