Whitbeck authors book on Native youth development

May 28th, 2014 | By | Category: 2014, Campus News, Issue, May 22

UNL sociologist Les Whitbeck has co-authored a new book designed to inform Native tribes and mental health service providers of the historical framework surrounding Native adolescents’ mental health and substance abuse issues.

The book, “Indigenous Adolescent Development: Psychological, Social and Historical Contexts,” is based on a longitudinal study that Whitbeck began in 2001. The research followed 746 children in four Native tribes and four Canadian First Nations from early adolescence into early adulthood.

The new publication, written in collaboration with tribal elders, addresses development and serious mental health and substance abuse issues.

The book explains an adolescent development model that the authors developed. A developmental model is a framework used as a guide in making diagnoses, understanding a process and forming a prognosis for continued development. The model addresses the violence and historical losses tribes suffered during the European settling of the United States — losses that still affect indigenous communities.

“You can’t understand American Indians or Canadian indigenous people without some appreciation of the effects of ethnic cleansing and how that permeates every single aspect of their social life, from where they live to their communities to their families to the kinds of prejudices they experience,” Whitbeck said.

“(In the book) we’re able to show the developmental effects and psychological effects of ethnic cleansing and historical loss,” he said. “It affects these kids. It affects their families.”

Whitbeck co-authored the book with Kelley Sittner Hartshorn of Oklahoma State University and Melissa Walls of the University of Minnesota.

The book also could lead to funding for substance abuse prevention programs within Native communities in the United States.

Deann Gayman | University Communications

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