Nurturing resilience in American Indian/Alaska Native preschool children: the role of cultural socialization, executive function, and neighborhood risk

2023  Journal Article

Nurturing resilience in American Indian/Alaska Native preschool children: the role of cultural socialization, executive function, and neighborhood risk

Pub TLDR

This paper examines the role of cultural socialization, executive function, and neighborhood risk in nurturing resilience in American Indian/Alaska Native preschool children.

DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1279336    PubMed ID: 38098526
 

College of Health researcher(s)

Highlights

  • American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) children face barriers to healthy development due to historical trauma, poverty, and neighborhood risks.
  • AIAN youth have higher risks of substance use, depression, suicide, and dropping out of school.
  • Early prevention and intervention efforts are needed to address these risks and promote healthy development in AIAN children.
  • Boosting individual resilience factors, such as executive function (EF) skills, and leveraging resilience processes embedded in AIAN children's communities, like culture and language, can support healthy development.
  • Resilience is defined as the capacity to adapt to challenges, and it involves multiple levels, including individual, family, community, sociological, and ecological.
  • Indigenous theories of resilience prioritize community thriving over individual adaptation, with community being both the source and goal of resilience.

Abstract

Introduction

American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children possess numerous cultural assets, yet higher exposures to neighborhood risks (e.g., lack of housing, crime) may present barriers to healthy cognitive development, including executive function (EF). Cultural socialization may promote resilience and support children’s early cognition, but this has not been adequately studied. The present study examined the effects of neighborhood risk and cultural socialization on EF for AI/AN preschool children.

Method

Parents/caregivers of 768 AI/AN preschoolers from the 2015 AI/AN Head Start Family and Community Experiences (FACES) Study rated neighborhood risk via two scales: “Neighborhood Problems” and “Environmental Conditions,” and cultural socialization practices via two scales: cultural activities and tribal language activities. Children’s EF was measured directly using the Pencil Tap Task and the Leiter-R attention subscale.

Results

Families perceived neighborhood risks as relatively low, and overall risk did not predict children’s EF. However, higher average language socialization was significantly related to higher EF, as were two specific language activities (encouraging children to learn their tribal language, making sure children heard their tribal language) and two cultural activities (playing AI/AN games, participating in tribal ceremonies), controlling for neighborhood risk.

Discussion

Findings suggest some aspects of cultural socialization may promote resilience among AI/AN preschoolers by supporting early EF. Mechanisms may include increased spiritual, social, and cultural connections, and practice with EF skills during cultural games. Future research should partner with AI/AN communities to investigate culturally grounded EF interventions and reevaluate measures of neighborhood risk to promote resilience and connectedness for AI/AN children.

Merculief, A., Lipscomb, S., McClelland, M.M., Geldhof, G.J., Tsethlikai, M., Henrichs, J., Kataoka, S., Pakulak, E.(2023)Nurturing resilience in American Indian/Alaska Native preschool children: the role of cultural socialization, executive function, and neighborhood riskFrontiers in Psychology14