skip to main content

Indigenous Family Resilience and Native American Parenting Philosophies


Graduate School of Social Service Assistant Professor Jenn Lilly, Ph.D., recently published two research articles exploring the resiliency of Indigenous families and the parenting philosophies of Native American parents.

Please see the abstracts for both articles below. Both article titles are hyperlinked to the full text for further reading.

“I Have to Watch Them Closely”: Native American Parenting Practice and Philosophies
Published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies

One of many ways that Native American (NA) families demonstrate resilience is by parenting children in some of the most adverse contexts in U.S. society. We use the framework of historical oppression, resilience, and transcendence (FHORT) in a critical ethnography to qualitatively explore the parenting philosophies and practices that NAs use to protect children from the risks of an oppressive context. Data were drawn from 436 members of two Southeastern NA tribes. A team-based critical ethnographic data analysis approach was used to analyze these findings, revealing the following themes: (a) “Your Kids Come First”: Prioritizing Children’s Needs; (b) “They Should Enjoy their Childhood”: Sheltering Children from Family Stressors; (c) “I Have to Watch Them Closely”: Closely Monitoring Children; and, (d) “There’s No Drinking at My House”: Preventing Children’s Exposure to Substance Abuse. Results indicate that NA parents adopt child-centric mindsets and use a number of positive practices to protect their children from the potentially harmful environments created through historical oppression.


“It’s in the family circle”: Communication promoting Indigenous family resilience
Published in Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Science


We use the Framework of Historical Oppression, Resilience, and Transcendence (FHORT) to investigate the framework’s core concept of family resilience and related protective and promotive factors that contribute to greater resilience, namely communication.


Scant research has examined communication in Indigenous families; yet general research suggests that family communication is a prominent aspect of family resilience.


In this exploratory sequential mixed-methods study with data from 563 Indigenous participants (n = 436 qualitative and n = 127 quantitative survey), thematic reconstructive analysis was used to qualitatively understand participants’ experiences of family communication and quantitatively examine protective factors for family resilience.


The following themes related to family communication as a component of family resilience emerged from qualitative analysis: “It’s in the Family Circle”: Discussing Problems as a Family with the subtheme: Honesty between Partners; (b) “Never Bring Adult Business into Kids’ Lives”: Keeping Adult Conversations Private; and (c) “Trust Us Enough to Come to Us”: Open Communication between Parents and Children. Regression analysis indicated that higher community and social support, relationship quality, and life satisfaction were associated with greater family resilience.


Positive communication practices are a strong component of resilience, healthy Indigenous families. Promotive factors at the community (social and community support), relational (relationship quality), and individual (life satisfaction) levels positively contribute to Indigenous family resilience.


Clinical programs providing practical tools to foster healthy communication – both about difficult topics as well as positive topics – are promising avenues to foster resilience.


Comments are closed.