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The Lived Experiences of Native American Women Parenting on and off Reservations

Problem Statement

The analysis of sources, which are related to the topic of the future study, indicates that researchers pay close attention to the needs of individuals who live on reservations. For example, they can examine social and economic aspects of their lives (Raheja, 2010). Many of these studies are aimed at examining the experiences of Native American women (Kuntz, Hill, Linkenbach, Lande, & Larsson 2009; Pallacios, & Kennedy, 2010). However, it is crucial to state here that these studies are supposed to examine only one specific issue affecting the life of Native American women living on reservations. For example, Browker (1992) examines dropout rates among these females. This researcher notes that dropout rates among women from the reservations were high compared to other women in the U. S (Browker, 1992). This trend has been observed by other researchers, for example, one can mention the research article by Elizabeth Stearms (2006), who notes that Native Americans are more likely to leave school before graduation. In part, this phenomenon can be attributed to the differences in attitudes toward education (Swischer & Hoisch, 1992). Consequently, Light and Marrin (1985) conduct a study that focused on the upbringing of children on reservations. This study does not specifically concentrate on the parenting behavior of these women, but it provides an overview of how children are brought up in the reservations.

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The studies that have been covered in the literature review indicate that more attention should be paid to the needs of women who want to raise their children outside reservations (Pallacios and Kennedy, 2010). Certainly, researchers acknowledge that there are culturally shaped parenting strategies (Giles-Sims & Lockhart, 2005, p. 196). Moreover, they recognize the importance of economic factors that influence the relations between children and guardians (Giles-Sims & Lockhart, 2005). Nevertheless, such studies do not throw light on the specific experiences of groups that have long been isolated from the mainstream culture or even marginalized. Thus, it is critical to focus on a set of challenges that are faced by Native American females. Therefore, it would be important to examine how these women raise children on and off preservations (Hodge, 2009; Rizos & Krizova, 2007). Very often researchers overview the problems encountered by various sub-groups that are included in Native American population. One can argue that such groups have been marginalized by the state (Hooks & Smith, 2004, p. 559). This study will enable Indian American women, who live on reservations, to share their experiences. These are the major benefits that can be identified.

Purpose and Significance

Cultural identity shapes people’s decisions, attitudes, and values. This argument is relevant if one speaks about the needs of Native Americans who do not always successfully integrate into society (Champagne, 2000). In turn, the purpose of this study is to gather information about the exact experiences that women from reservations face. In particular, it will be aimed at examining the attitudes that women have toward raising children. One should bear in mind that the findings derived in the course of this research will apply only to a very narrow group of population. They should not be applied to other cultural groups.

There are several reasons why it is important to examine the topic. To begin with, the findings of this study can be used by legislators, politicians, and public administrators who should understand the challenges faced by Native American women living on reservations. To a great extent, this study can be used for policy development and decision-making. Additionally, this information can be relevant to non-governmental organizations that are concerned with improving the living standards of Native American reservations. Furthermore, the information collected in the course of this research may be necessary to help these individuals to integrate into the community.

Problem Background

Many scholars have carried out studies regarding the lives of Native Americans on reservations. Some researchers have examined the experiences of people who grow up amid a different civilization (White, 1995; Ross, 2005). Additionally, Silko (1996) concluded that a person cannot easily integrative or reconcile two cultures. Consequently, Native American Indians, who live off the reservations, have to adjust to a set of different behavioral norms. Several studies throw light on the experiences of Native American children who live in foster families. As a rule, they do not easily establish relations with their guardians because they are more accustomed to different parenting strategies (Giles-Sims, & Lockhart, 2005).

In addition to that, some studies have been carried out in order to describe and explain the difficult economic conditions that people from reservations have (Hoffmann, Jackson, & Smith, 2005; Kuntz et al., 2009; Fox, Becker-Green, Gault, & Simmons, 2005). These studies have highlighted the various challenges that people on reservations face on a daily basis. Among these difficulties, one can distinguish between homelessness and poor living conditions. It should be mentioned that many families have to live in houses that are too small to accommodate a family that has children. Similarly, the quality of the houses in which these families live is very poor despite the fact that most of the people own their homes (Lankford & Riley, 1986). Moreover, reservations lack basic infrastructures like running water, good roads, and telecommunication. It is also worth noting that previous studies have shown that unemployment rates on reservations are very high. Each of these aspects impairs the quality of life on various reservations. This is why some women believe that it is much better to raise their children off the reservations. Their decisions can be explained by the need to gain access to basic amenities. Moreover, these people look for opportunities that will enable them to climb the social ladder. For example, one can speak about employment.

Theoretical Framework

This study will employ the historical trauma theory that has often been used by researchers. This framework is aimed at explaining how trauma experienced by one individual can be transferred to another across different generations (Muller, 1998; Osburn, 2009). According to this model, such painful experiences of the past can prevent a person from integrating into society (Haedicke, 2009, p. 47). In turn, this study will expound on the social, political, and economic effects of the trauma that Native Americans faced as a result of segregation and discrimination during the colonial era to the present moment. More specifically, this theory will be used to explain the impact of this trauma on Native American women.

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Secondly, the study will incorporate the principles of constructivist theory. This theory has been chosen because it is based on the premise people always rely on their background to construct worldviews or attitudes toward various phenomena (Gartner, 2012, p. 16). According to this model, their knowledge is constructed in the course of day-to-day activities. Moreover, this theory implies that people’s past experiences can shape their parenting behavior (Scaife, 2013, p. 66). This is one of the aspects that should be considered. To some degree, the memories of mothers can significantly affect the education of children. So, this study will examine the impact of past experiences of the parenting strategies of Native American women. Overall, the chosen theoretical frameworks are helpful for explaining the behavior of people and their interactions with their children.

Research Questions

This study will be aimed at answering the following questions:

  1. What does it means for a woman to grow up on the reservation?
  2. What experiences do women who grew up on reservations have when they also raise their children on reservations?
  3. What challenges do women, who grew up on reservations face, when they try to raise their children off the reservations?
  4. What are the differences between growing up on reservations and off reservations?

Nature of the Study

The study will examine the experiences of Native American women living on and off reservations from a qualitative viewpoint. In particular, it will be necessary to use a semi-structured interview. This data collection method is suitable in those cases when it is necessary to understand the opinions and attitudes of respondents. This approach is suitable when it is necessary to identify specific concerns of individuals (Creswell, 2003, p. 181). Moreover, this approach is beneficial because it helps the researcher involve the participants in the discussion of various issues (Creswell, 2003, p. 181). For example, respondents will be able to discuss their past experiences. This is why it has been chosen. I will rely on the principles of the grounded theory according to which a researcher should first focus on the collection of data and then proceed to the formulation of a hypothesis (Creswell, 2003). This approach ensures that a scholar does not twist the answers of respondents so that they could fit his/her theory.

This is one of the main pitfalls that should be avoided. Additionally, I will travel to the reservations to get first-hand information about the way in which these women are bringing up their children on reservations. Moreover, in this way, one can understand the challenges they face. In addition to that, the study will examine the experiences of Native American women who were brought up on reservations and are now living off the reservations. I will also focus on the attitude of these respondents toward the child-rearing process off the reservations. Admittedly, there are studies that can throw light on how the experiences of children or adolescents can affect their parenting strategies in the future (Huh, 2006, p. 185). Yet, they are not fully relevant to the needs of Native American females because they do not take into account the cultural legacies of individuals. This is one of the issues that should be considered. In turn, this study will derive more specific information that is related to this particular population. This goal will be achieved by conducting interviews with women living off reservations.

Possible Sources and Types of Data

The study will mainly incorporate the interview of women who were brought up on the reservations. It will be the main method of data collection. Additionally, the study will be aimed at describing the experiences of these women as they raise their children on or off the reservations. In this regard, the study will involve traveling to the reservations and interviewing the Native American women to get first-hand information from these respondents.

Reference List

Browker, A. (1992). The American Indian female dropout. Journal of American Indian Education, 31(3), n.p. Web.

Champagne, D. (2000). Contemporary Native American Cultural Issues. New York, NY: Rowman Altamira.

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Creswell, J. (2003). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. New York: SAGE.

Fox, K., Becker-Green, J., Gault, J., & Simmons, D. (2005). Native American youth in transition: The path from adolescence to adulthood in two Native American communities. Portland, OR: National Indian Child Welfare Association.

Gartner, C. (2012). Biography, Life Transitions and Social Capital of Seniors: Adult Learning in Modern Society. Boston, MA: GRIN Verlag.

Giles-Sims, J., & Lockhart, C. (2005). Culturally Shaped Patterns of Disciplining Children. Journal of Family Issues, 26(2), 196-218.

Haedicke, S. (2009). Political Performances: Theory and Practice. New York, NY: Rodopi.

Hodge, F. S. (2009). Breast cancer–screening behavior among rural California American Indian women. American Indian culture and Research Journal, 33(3), 35–42.

Hoffmann, L. L., Jackson, A. P. & Smith, S. A. (2005). Career Barriers Among native American Students Living On Reservations. Journal of Career Development. 32(1), 31-45.

Hooks, G., & Smith, C. (2004). The Treadmill of Destruction: National Sacrifice Areas and Native Americans. American Sociological Review, 69(4), 558-575.

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Huh, D. (2006). Does Problem Behavior Elicit Poor Parenting? A Prospective Study of Adolescent Girls. Journal of Adolescent Research, 21 (2), 185-204.

Kuntz, S. W., Hill, W. G., Linkenbach, J. W, Lande, G. & Larsson, L. (2009). Methylmercury risk and awareness among American Indian women of childbearing age living on an inland northwest reservation. Environmental Research, 109(6), 753–759.

Lankford, R. & Riley, J. D. (1986). Native American reading disability. Journal of American Indian Education, 25(3), n.p., Web.

Light, H. K. & Marrin, R. E. (1985). Guidance of American Indian children: Their heritage and some contemporary reviews. Journal of American Indian Education, 25(1), n.p. Web.

Muller, H. J. (1998). American Indian Women Managers: Living in Two Worlds. Journal of Management Inquiry, 7(1), 4-28.

Osburn, K. M. (2009). Southern ute Women: Autonomy and Assimilation on the Reservation, 1887-1934. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press.

Pallacios, J. & Kennedy, H. P. (2010). Reflections of Native American teen mothers. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 39, 425–434.

Raheja, M. (2010). Reservation Reelism: Redfacing, Visual Sovereignty, and Representations of Native Americans in Film. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Rizos, M. & Krizova, V. (2007). The Montana Experience: On and Off the Reservation. Common Ground. Web.

Ross, L. (2005). Native women, mean-spirited drugs, and punishing policies. Social Justice, 32(3), 54–62.

Scaife, J. (2013). Deciding Children’s Futures: An Expert Guide to Assessments for Safeguarding and Promoting Children’s Welfare in Family Court. New York, NY: Routledge.

Silko, L.M. (1996). Yellow woman and a beauty of the spirit: Essays on Native American life today. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Stearms, E. (2006). When and Why Dropouts Leave High School. Youth Society, 31(1), 29-57.

Swischer, K. & Hoisch, M. (1992). Dropping out among American Indians and Alaska Natives: A review of studies. Journal of American Indian Education, 31(2), n.p. Web.

White, P. M. (1995). American Indian Studies: A Bibliographical guide. Tucson, AZ: Libraries Limited.

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