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01-07-2013 | Original Paper | Uitgave 5/2013

Journal of Child and Family Studies 5/2013

“My Culture, My Family, My School, Me”: Identifying Strengths and Challenges in the Lives and Communities of American Indian Youth

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 5/2013
Tracey R. McMahon, DenYelle Baete Kenyon, Jessica S. Carter


Historically, the majority of research with American Indian (AI) youth and communities has focused on vulnerabilities, problems, and needs rather than resilience, strengths, and assets. Adding to the limited research which has examined AI youth and communities using the strengths perspective, we examined community assets, personal strengths, community challenges, and personal hardships as perceived by reservation-based, Northern Plains AI youth via open-ended survey questions. The present study was conducted during the spring and fall of 2009 at a tribal school in the Northern Plains (N = 95; n = 37 males; n = 58 females; aged 14.4–20.95 years; M = 17.3, SD = 1.47 years). The majority of youth self-identified their ethnic background as solely AI (85.3 %), with small percentages reporting additional ethnic backgrounds. Analyses revealed that the people in their lives, especially their families, are significant sources of strength for AI youth. Findings also indicated that AI youth have a positive orientation toward themselves and their communities, which was evidenced by the fact that the youth identified more strengths than challenges in their lives. Somewhat unexpectedly, when asked what aspects of their lives and communities they would most like to change, a significant number of the youth identified they wanted to change “nothing” about their personal lives or their communities. Reasons for these responses are explored.

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