Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Marvin Fifield


A study was conducted to examine the relationship between specific family variables and measures of cognitive abilities for preschool and young school-aged children of an American Indian ancestry. More specifically, the study used two cognitive measures, the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children and the Embedded Figures Test, and examined the influence that 23 family variables and cultural background (acculturation) had on measures of spatial abilities.

Past studies suggested that American Indian children, as a group, perform above the standardization sample on measures of visual-spatial skills, have higher simultaneous processing skills, and are more field independent. It was anticipated that at least 40% of the children tested in this study would have statistically significant discrepancy scores in favor of the Simultaneous Scale and have an effect size of .40 or above on subtests reported to measure visual-spatial skills. It was further hypothesized that the children of this study would be more field independent (reach an effect size of .67 or higher) and that the Embedded Figures Tests would have correlations of r = .50 or above with the total Simultaneous Scale, Magic Windows, Gestalt Closure, Triangles, and Spatial Memory.

Results found that 40% of this sample did not obtain significant discrepancy scores, and only Gestalt Closure for the preschool children and Spatial Memory for the school-aged children reached an effect size of .40. In addition, only school-aged children were considered more field independent, and field independence was associated with the total Simultaneous Scale, the Mental processing Composite, the Achievement Scale, and the following subtests: Triangles, Arithmetic, and Reading/Understanding.

A principal component analysis was conducted to determine the factor structure of the Acculturation Scale (the Rosebud Personal Opinion Survey). This analysis found that the survey lacked empirical support for the dimensions suggested by the authors and only the first component, Language-Ancestry, was a useful indicator of acculturation. Nine family variables and the Language-Ancestry component were used as independent variables and accounted for or predicted the visual-spatial scores of American Indian children. None of the variables used reached a significance level of p ≤ .0056



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