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Three studies examining the mechanisms linking stress exposure to delinquency and substance use among North American indigenous adolescents

Dane Steven Hautala, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Objective: The purpose of this dissertation research was to examine in three separate studies the mechanisms linking a variety of stressors to delinquency/substance use among North American Indigenous (i.e., American Indian and Canadian First Nations) youth. Method: Data for the three empirical chapters come from an eight-wave longitudinal study of 676 Indigenous youth and their caretakers from three U.S. reservations and four Canadian First Nations reserves. Study 1 Results: The objective was to examine the intergenerational transmission of problem behavior from female caretakers to their children via caretaker stress exposure, psychosocial functioning, and parenting practices. Early caretaker adversity and problem behavior undermined caretaker warmth and support through their positive effects on adult financial strain. Early caretaker problem behavior had a direct negative association with warmth and support and was partially mediated by adult problem behavior. As expected, caretaker warmth and support linked these processes with their child’s problem behavior. Study 2 Results: The objective was to examine the mechanisms linking perceived racial discrimination with aggression. Path analysis results showed that discrimination was indirectly associated with aggression through its negative effect on school bonds and positive effect on delinquent peer associations. The indirect effect for school bonds, however, was stronger when depressive symptoms were high. Delinquent peer associations also amplified the positive effect of perceived discrimination on aggression. Depressive symptoms did not operate as a mediator or moderator. Study 3 Results: The objective was to examine ecological moderators of the relation between violence exposure and meeting past year criteria for a substance use disorder (SUD). Logistic regression analyses suggested that dating violence victimization amplified the effect caretaker victimization had on SUD risk, whereas family warmth and support buffered this association. Moreover, the effect of community violence exposure on SUD risk was greater for those living in remote communities and high income families. Although delinquent peer associations had a direct effect on SUD risk, it did not moderate any of the violence exposure measures. Conclusion: Collectively, this dissertation demonstrates the usefulness of stress-based models for understanding heightened Indigenous delinquency and substance use, and provides insights into prevention/intervention policies among Indigenous youth.

Subject Area

Sociology|Criminology|Native American studies

Recommended Citation

Hautala, Dane Steven, "Three studies examining the mechanisms linking stress exposure to delinquency and substance use among North American indigenous adolescents" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10142900.