The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Impact of Kin Support On American Indian Families

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 12:15 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 001A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Gordon Limb, PhD, Director, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
Kevin Shafer, PhD, Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Scholars believe that family ties extending out to previous generations, called kin support, may have allowed American Indians to withstand traumatic events. Although a series of traumatic and historical events disrupted the social structures of family life, kin support was found to be a major factor in the survival of American Indians. If kin support acts as a protective factor for American Indian families from trauma, then it is critical to understand how kin support impacts families to further advance the survival of American Indians.  Very few studies have examined kin support of new mothers in the American Indian population. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare patterns of kin support between urban American Indian and White mothers from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study.  


We used a subsample from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (Fragile Families), a nationally-representative sample taken from 20 cities with populations over 200,000. Fragile Families is a longitudinal study of 4,898 children and their mothers who were born between 1998 and 2000 and included an oversample of unmarried parents. Our subsample included mothers who self-identified as American Indian, regardless of father’s race and mothers who identified as non-Hispanic White whose child’s fathers also identified as non-Hispanic White. The final analytic sample included 215 American Indians and 1,017 non-Hispanic Whites.


Three multinomial logistic regression models were run. Our results showed that American Indians were more likely to receive high support (when compared to Whites). American Indians were 1.50 times as likely as Whites to receive high support over no support (p< .001) and had 88.9% greater odds of high support than low support when compared to Whites (p<.01). We also found that while urban American Indian mothers were similar to Whites in a number of areas, American Indian mothers that were not married, fell below the poverty threshold, were younger in age, and co-resided with kin were more likely than their white counterparts to receive kin support.


Intervention strategies that focus on co-residing with one’s kin network may be effective for urban American Indians. This allows practitioners the opportunity to include family members, peers, traditional healers, and community members throughout all phases of treatment. Additionally, during the assessment phase, utilizing a genogram in combination with an ecomap may help identify strengths to support American Indian families as they coexist with their extended family in compensation of limited resources. Implications for urban American Indian mothers suggest that maintaining their role as kin keeper may serve as an intrinsic reward and motivation for caring for kin. The role of a kin keeper may also promote the unique contribution in their families and the preservation of their culture. Given the minimal research in this area, results of this study can be used to guide future research and the development of intervention strategies for practitioners working with American Indian families.