Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Family Consumer Human Development

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Glen O. Jenson, Thomas R. Lee


Glen O. Jenson


Thomas R. Lee


The high incidence of adolescent problem behaviors in the United States raises major concerns. These problem behaviors include: sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies, suicide, depression, substance abuse, crime against persons and property, and delinquency. Consequently, there continues to be a high level of concern and interest in different ethnic populations of adolescents and their level of risk.

This study evaluated the following problem behaviors: substance abuse, suicide, delinquency, and sexual intercourse; and the risk factors that increase the probability of these problem behaviors occurring. Specifically, the study identified the profiles of the population in relationship to the problem behaviors comparing Native and nonnative American adolescents. This study also described how both samples of high school students reported the connectedness of school, home, and community with their perceived feelings of belongingness and safety, in addition to their reports of problem behavior. The prevalences of problem behaviors in Native and nonnative American adolescents were compared, the differences in the importance of risk factors related to problem behaviors in the two groups were examined, and the extent to which the risks and protective factors predict problem behaviors in Native and nonnative American adolescents also was assessed.

In comparing problem behaviors between Native and nonnative American adolescents, there were significantly higher incidences of problem behaviors in the Native American sample. Statistical analyses demonstrated that problem behaviors were not consistently predicted by the risk and protective factors for the Native American females, but they were predictable for the nonnative American female sample. The risk factors explained less of the variation in problem behavior for the males than for the females from both samples. The risk factors explained less variation in problem behaviors for Native American males than their nonnative American counterparts.

This research demonstrates the need to develop models to better understand cultural influences on adolescents in order to improve the intervention and prevention techniques necessary to reduce the number of youth at risk. There is a particular need to better identify the risk factors of importance to Native Americans.