Psychological and behavioral acculturation in a social network of Mexican Americans in the United States and use of dental services

G. Maupome, W. R. McConnell, B. L. Perry, R. Marino, Eric Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations


Objectives: We used data from the TalaSurvey study to examine associations between dental health experiences, social network characteristics, and levels of behavioral and psychological acculturation in one location in the American Midwest. Methods: Starting in parishes and community organizations, we identified adults of Mexican origin living in Indianapolis, who were 1st- or 2nd-generation immigrants from Tala, Mexico. Using a social networks methodology and following extensive formative research, we created an egocentric social network survey and administered it via face-to-face interviews. We identified the peers (alters) in interviewees’ (egos) personal networks. We asked egos about multiple oral health and dental care variables for self and for alters. Acculturation (psychological and behavioral) was measured with a validated tool. Through logistic and negative binomial regression, we examined the effects of acculturation and network composition on ego's dental insurance status, dental office visits, and the reason for most recent dental office visit. Results: A total of 332 egos (mean age 36; 63% female) were interviewed: 90% were born in Mexico; 45% had completed elementary school or lower; and most had low income. Each ego named 3.9 (SD±1.9) alters in his/her personal network, for a total of 1299 alters (mean age 39; 61% female). Both behavioral acculturation and psychological acculturation were moderately associated with dental insurance coverage, and greater behavioral acculturation predicted more frequent dental care. More psychologically acculturated egos were more likely to seek preventive care. Further, egos with more highly educated networks sought care more frequently and for preventive purposes, net of ego's own education and acculturation. Conclusions: This study contextualizes acculturation of Mexican Americans within the personal networks in which oral health discussion takes place. The findings underscore the critical importance of acculturation and social network factors in shaping a subgroup of Latinos’ orientation toward dental care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)540-548
Number of pages9
JournalCommunity Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Mexican American
  • Mexican immigrants
  • dental health
  • network science
  • oral health behaviors
  • social network analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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