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CONTEXT: The high birthrate among Latina teenagers in the United States has generated increased interest in the role of acculturation in their sexual and reproductive health. It is critical to identify gaps in the existing research and to ascertain the relationship between acculturation and Latino sexual behavior.

METHODS: PUBMED, ERIC and POPLINE were searched for journal articles published between 1985 and 2006 that explicitly examined acculturation and sexual and reproductive health among Latino youth. All fertility-related outcomes (pregnancy, birth, abortion) and their proximate determinants (attitudes, knowledge, norms, sexual activity contraceptive use) were considered sexual or reproductive health outcomes. Eligible studies used a cross-sectional or longitudinal design; had a sample of males, females or both aged 25 or younger; and included Latino-specific analyses.

RESULTS: Seventeen studies met the screening criteria, and these studies used 23 distinct measures of acculturation that captured four primary dimensions: time (duration of exposure to U.S. culture), language, culture and residence. The measures’robustness varied, and none of the studies was widely generalizable. Ten studies investigated sexual initiation, and eight of these found a positive association between the likelihood of this outcome and acculturation. Acculturation also was associated with increased condom use and with beliefs and norms related to healthy outcomes, although the evidence was less conclusive.

CONCLUSIONS: Ideal studies of acculturation would stratify analyses by gender and country of origin, and would include time measures related to acculturation. When feasible, studies should be population-based and longitudinal, and should build on existing theories of the relationship between acculturation and the sexual behavior, norms and beliefs that are unique to Latino culture.