The Journal of Primary Prevention

, Volume 38, Issue 1–2, pp 5–26 | Cite as

Identifying Protective Factors to Promote Health in American Indian and Alaska Native Adolescents: A Literature Review

  • Michele HensonEmail author
  • Samantha Sabo
  • Aurora Trujillo
  • Nicolette Teufel-Shone
Literature Review


Exposure to protective factors, conditions that protect against the occurrence of an undesirable outcome or promote the occurrence of a desirable outcome within an adolescent’s environment, can foster healthy adolescent behaviors and reduce adult morbidity and mortality. Yet, little is known about the nature and effect of protective factors on the positive social and health outcomes among American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) adolescents. We conducted a review of the literature to identify the protective factors associated with positive health outcomes among AIAN adolescents. We consulted Elsevier Science Direct, ERIC EBSCOhost, PubMed, and the Web of Science databases. A total of 3421 articles were encountered. Excluded publications were those that did not focus on AIAN adolescents (n = 3341), did not identify protective factors (n = 56), were not original research studies (n = 8), or were not written in the English language. We identified nine categories of protective factors positively associated with health and social outcomes, including: current and/or future aspirations, personal wellness, positive self-image, self-efficacy, non-familial connectedness, family connectedness, positive opportunities, positive social norms, and cultural connectedness. Such factors positively influenced adolescent alcohol, tobacco, and substance use; delinquent and violent behavior; emotional health including depression, suicide attempt; resilience; and academic success. Protective factors spanned multiple domains of the socio-ecological model. Strengths-based health promotion efforts that leverage local, innate protective factors and work with AIANs to create environments rich in protective factors are key to improving the health and wellbeing of AIAN adolescents.


American Indian Alaska Native Adolescent Protective factors Asset-based 



Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Minority Health And Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under Award No. P20MD006872. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Special thanks to Beth Kaeding and to the Center for American Indian Resilience team.

Compliance With Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Human and Animal Rights

This research did not involve human subjects or animals.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele Henson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Samantha Sabo
    • 2
  • Aurora Trujillo
    • 3
  • Nicolette Teufel-Shone
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Health Promotion Sciences, Center for American Indian Resilience, Zuckerman College of Public HealthUniversity of Arizona College of Public HealthTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health Promotion Sciences, Zuckerman College of Public HealthUniversity of Arizona College of Public HealthTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Native Nations InstituteTucsonUSA

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