American Indian (AI) boarding school attendance is related to poor physical health status; however, little is known about how specific aspects of this experience contribute to poor health. Five experiences (age of first attendance, limited family visits, forced church attendance, prohibition on practicing AI culture and traditions, and punishment for use of AI language) may be independently associated with physical health status in adulthood. We expected the effect to be greater for those who began boarding school at older ages.
Data on AI boarding school attenders (n = 771) came from the AI-Service Utilization, Psychiatric Epidemiology, Risk and Protective Factors Project. Multiple linear regression models examined the association of these five experiences with physical health status. Additionally, we conducted a separate set of regressions to test for an interaction effect of age of first attendance.
Each of the five experiences noted above were independently associated with poorer physical health status compared to those who did not have these experiences. An interaction effect for those punished for use of AI language and who were aged 8 or older was confirmed.
Findings are consistent with reports that boarding school attendance is related to poor AI adult health. To inform AI health programs, the relationship of specific diseases and boarding school attendance should be considered.