Date of Award:
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Susan L. Crowley
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.
Morris, Carolyn Thomas, "Characteristics of Internalizing Social-Emotional Behaviors of Southwestern Native American Children" (1998). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 6305.