Purpose: Given growing ethno-cultural diversity, a sense of cultural connection may be a key factor in risk prevention and health promotion for North American youth. We studied the psychometric properties of a cultural connectedness measure and its utility as a protective factor.
Methods: Over 29,000 grade 7-12 students from diverse ethnic groups took part in the 2008 BC Adolescent Health Survey, a provincial stratified cluster survey. A 6-item short form of the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) assessed youth efforts to learn about their ethnic group and sense of belonging to the group (score range = 1-5). We tested the factor structure with confirmatory factor analyses using polychoric correlations and weighted least squares estimation. Age-adjusted logistic regressions, separate by gender, were then used to see if cultural connectedness was protective for a number of behaviors (e.g., substance use).
Results: A two-factor model of exploration and commitment (RMSEA = .07, CFI = .98) fit the data slightly better than a one-factor model (RMSEA = .09, CFI = .97), but high factor correlation (r = .91) allowed a combined score of connectedness (Cronbach’s α = .89). Regression analyses showed higher cultural connectedness was linked with lower odds of substance use and ever having sex, and greater odds of higher educational goals and art/club participation. Among females, connectedness was also protective for suicidal ideation and self-esteem.
Conclusions: The MEIM measures two distinct but strongly related dimensions of cultural connectedness. Greater connectedness reduced the likelihood of several risk behaviors and increased the likelihood of some positive outcomes. Youth health interventions could include elements to foster cultural connection. The MEIM may be useful in evaluating intervention effectiveness by measuring changes in connectedness.