Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Clinical Psychological Science 4:4 (2016), pp 732–743. doi 10.1177/2167702616645795


Copyright © 2016 Melissa L. Walls, Les Whitbeck, and Brian Armenta. Published by SAGE Publications & The Association for Psychological Science. Used by permission.


Efforts to build empirical evidence for the protective effects of Indigenous cultural factors on psychological health have yielded mixed findings. We examine the interplay of previously hypothesized culturally relevant risk (discrimination, historical loss) and protective (spiritual activities) factors among Indigenous people. The sample includes 569 Indigenous adolescents (mean age = 17.23, SD = 0.88; 51.0% girls) and 563 Indigenous adult caregivers (mean age = 44.66, SD = 9.18; 77.4% women). Our central finding was that indigenous spirituality was associated with poorer psychological outcomes across several domains (depressive symptoms, anger, anxiety, somatization, and interpersonal difficulties), but observed effects were attenuated once perceived discrimination and historical losses were added to statistical models. Thus, consideration of relevant stressors drastically changed our conclusions, underscoring the uncertain dynamics through which specific Indigenous cultural factors impact mental health. Researchers should work in collaboration with Indigenous communities to improve measurement and empirical investigation of these complex constructs.