Methods: Transcripts were analyzed using an inductive thematic approach with data from focus groups with AI/AN females attending a summer program for AI/AN high school students interested in pursuing health careers. Participants came from urban, rural, and reservation communities and were citizens or descendants of tribes from throughout the Western United States, creating a diverse intertribal sample (N= 17, ages 15-17). Two focus groups took place during the summer program over the course of a week.
Results: Findings suggest that connection to tribal identities and a desire to be culturally connected were important to the young women in this sample. This desire to be build and maintain tribal connections were evident in their discussions about dating and relationships and demonstrated in two major themes: (a) definitions of abusive relationships included partners not respecting or allowing participation in cultural practices and/or responsibilities, and (b) feelings of responsibility for maintaining traditions and cultural practices influenced participants’ decisions about partners and relationships. With regard to prevention programming, participants described a lack of education about emotional aspects of dating and relationships, including emotional abuse, in school-based health programs.
Conclusions: These findings underscore the need to integrate culturally specific risk and protective factors in prevention efforts among this population. While young women were quick to point out strengths derived from cultural connections, they also experienced unique pressures to partner with individuals and maintain relationships that allowed them to carry on tribal practices and responsibilities. This suggests complex implications for young women who may be in unsafe relationships that provide tribal and cultural connectedness. Results also suggest the need for more attention to emotional skills-based training and education about emotional abuse in school-based prevention programs. Findings from this study lay the foundation for further study on relationships between TDV and cultural identities and connectedness as well as development of TDV preventive interventions for this population.