Children, Youth, Families & Schools, Nebraska Center for Research on



Natira Mullet

Document Type


Date of this Version



Mullet, N., Waterman, E. A., Edwards, K. M., Simon, B., Hopfauf, S., & Herrington, R. (2023). Family strengths among Native American families and families living in poverty: Preventing adverse childhood experiences. Family Relations, 1–19.


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License: CC-BY-NC-ND


Objective: The purpose of this study was to understand how youth, caregivers, and community professionals perceive family strengths and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in their community. Specifically, this study was focused on the protective role of caregivers and families, positive youth development, and how Native American families and families living in poverty support adolescents’ social–emotional development and help them thrive in the face of adversity.

Background: Research documents the concerning rates and negative outcomes of ACEs. However, very little research has examined the views of families and professionals on how to prevent ACES among these populations.

Method: Participants were youth aged 10 to 14 years (n = 20), caregivers (n = 13), and an occupationally diverse group of professionals whose work intersected with ACEs (n = 7). Participants were all Native American and/or living in poverty in a small city in the Northern Plains region of the United States.

Results: Themes that emerged from the child and caregiver focus groups regarding protective factors included (a) family engagement, (b) family and cultural values, (c) personal and family safety, (d) future orientation, and (e) community strengths and needs. Themes that emerged from the professionals’ focus group included (a) families in crisis, (b) intersectionality of family challenges, (c) community collaboration, (d) trauma-informed practices and violence prevention, and (e) cultural connections.

Conclusion and implications: These data provided foundational information relevant to understanding families’ strengths and needs and the important role of culture in program development to prevent ACEs.