Date of Award:

1998

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Susan L. Crowley

Abstract

The knowledge base targeting internalizing symptomatology in Native American

children is surprisingly limited. As yet, it is not clear if the process and symptoms of

internalizing disorders are the same across cultures. The need for further investigation is

heightened by the fact that, compared to the majority population, Native Americans are

believed to be at greater risk for psychological problems because of impoverished conditions,

high unemployment, and high numbers of traumatic events on the reservations. Additionally,

the losses of traditional culture and language are considered risk factors for greater

psychopathology. The negative ramifications of internalizing disorders (e.g., depression and

anxiety) include academic failure, lowered social skills and self-esteem, and greater risk for

substance abuse and suicide. Furthermore, evidence suggests that all children with mental

disorders are at high risk for severe psychopathology when left unidentified or untreated. It

seems clear that additional research is needed to better understand internalizing symptoms

among members of this cultural group.

To help meet this need, the present study focused on internalizing disorders among

Native American children from the southwest, utilizing a portion of extant data from the

Flower of Two Soils Project. This project was one of very few methodologically sound studies

that have been successful in obtaining multisource. multimethod data on social, emotional, and

behavioral functioning of Native American children. Data were collected using a modified

version of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), Youth Self-Report (YSR), and Teacher's

Report Form (TRF) assessment instruments for parents, teachers, and children.

Findings with respect to elementary school-aged children found relatively high rates of

depression, anxiety, somatization symptoms and, potentially, disorders. These findings are a

cause for concern among parents, teachers, and all agencies responsible for children's mental

health. Across all three informant groups a consistent pattern of negative correlations was

observed between internalizing symptoms and child competencies. This finding is consistent

with previous findings for the general population. However,. competitiveness and academic

achievement were positively correlated with internalizing symptoms, perhaps indicating that an

emphasis on competitiveness and individual achievement is stressful for children from a

collectivistic Native American culture.

This was a descriptive study providing broad exploratory information, but there

remains a need for more focused research identifying multivariate relationships among relevant

variables. These findings should be cautiously interpreted and with due consideration for the

specific cultural and historical context of children and families. Recommendations are included

for research and practice.

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