In 2060, it has been projected that the Latino population will account for a total of 31 percent of the United States population, and Whites will account for 43 percent of this population (Santiago, Galdeano, & Taylor, 2015). However, in the year 2012, 33 percent of Hispanic families with school-aged children lived at or below the poverty level. It is imperative to note that only 65 percent of Latino students complete high school and earn diplomas in that same year (Santiago, Galdeano, & Taylor, 2015).

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In the context of moral disengagement wherein teenagers justify specific maladaptive behaviors to marginalize the associated guilt, peer relationships with adolescents who exhibit problematic behavior has been associated with Latino adolescents’ participation in behaviors such as substance abuse and low academic performance (Delgado, Ettekal, Simpkins, & Schaefer, 2016). “When groups are marginalized or small in number is when friends might be more influential” (Delgado, Ettekal, Simpkins, & Schaefer, 2016, p. 1113). States such as New Mexico, California, Texas, Arizona, Florida are home to a large population of Latinos, with a high of 59 percent Latino population in New Mexico and the lowest Latino population of 29 percent among the top five list being Florida (Santiago, Galdeano, & Taylor, 2015).

Given the Latino concentration in the aforementioned states, their population is clearly not marginalized. However, in the remaining states, the population is below (and often very far below) 25 percent. At this point, peer influences play a significant role in moral disengagement. With the exception of New Mexico, the high school dropout rate of students living in states with high Latino populations is significantly low when compared to the rates in a majority of the states with small Latino populations (State, 2013). Latino adolescents present with a significantly higher prevalence of drinking and substance abuse than their White, Black, Asian, or multi-racial peer counterparts (Balkin, Smith, & Flamez, 2014). The interrelationship between drug/alcohol use and academic performance predicts the adoption of moral disengagement, thereby fostering conditions wherein Latino teenagers detach from relationships with peers and behave in ways that are not in alignment with their existing moral principles.

  • Balkin, R. S., Smith, W., & Flamez, B. (2014). Exploring the relationship between ethnic identity and substance abuse/dependence among Latino youth. Journal Of Professional Counseling: Practice, Theory & Research, 41(2), 30-38.
  • Delgado, M., Ettekal, A., Simpkins, S., & Schaefer, D. (2016). How do my friends matter? Examining Latino adolescents’ friendships, school belonging, and academic achievement. Journal Of Youth & Adolescence, 45(6), 1110-1125. doi:10.1007/s10964-015-0341-x
  • Santiago, D. A., Galdeano, E. C., & Taylor, M. (2015, January). The condition of Latinos in education: 2015 factbook. Retrieved from
  • State high school graduation rates by race, ethnicity. (2013). State High School Graduation Rates By Race, Ethnicity. Retrieved from