Protective Factors in American Indian Communities and Adolescent Violence
With their distinct cultural heritage and rural boundaries, American Indian reservation communities offer a unique opportunity to explore protective factors that help buffer adolescents from potential risk behaviors such as violence. Prior published research on Indian communities has not explored three potential protective factors for violence—parental monitoring of adolescents and friends, adolescents’ self-efficacy to avoid fighting, and adolescents’ interest in learning more about their traditional culture. This paper explores the relationship between these factors and reduced risk of reported violence. In 1998, 630 American Indian students in grades 6–12 were surveyed in five Midwestern, rural Indian reservation schools. Path analysis was used to identify the direct and indirect association of the three potential protective factors with reduced violence behavior. There were significant gender differences both in perceived parental monitoring and in adolescents’ self-efficacy. For female adolescents, parental monitoring had the strongest inverse relationship with female adolescents’ involvement in violence. Female adolescents’ self-efficacy and their interest in learning more about their culture were also inversely associated with violence and therefore potentially important protectors. Male adolescents who reported more interest in learning the tribe’s culture had better self-efficacy to avoid violence. However, self-efficacy did not successfully predict their reported involvement in peer violence. These findings support exploring gender differences, parental monitoring, self-efficacy training as well as cultural elements in future violence intervention studies. Further investigation is needed to identify protective factors for risk behaviors among male adolescents and test the generalizability to non-reservation based adolescents.