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Primary Sources: What Promotes Resilience Among Alaska Native Youth?

An Alaskan landscape.

Lived Challenges and Getting Through Them: Alaska Native Youth Narratives as a Way to Understand Resilience.” Lisa Wexler, et al. Health Promotion Practice, Vol. 15, No. 1 (January 2014).

What it’s about: Researchers interviewed 20 Alaska Native teens about their everyday struggles and life challenges, how they deal with those struggles and challenges, and what meaning they make of their experiences. The researchers wanted to dispel myths about Alaska Native youth, draw a picture of what life is like for them, and tease out what makes some youth more resilient than others.

Why read it: The Alaska Native population has a higher percentage of young people than the general U.S. population. Alaska natives are also more likely than the rest of the country to be poor. They have higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, face discrimination and tend to live in rural, isolated places. Research on Alaska Native teens is scarce, and this article attempts to provide information that could help service providers better address these young people’s needs.

Biggest takeaways for family and youth workers: Lost relationships (because of friends moving away, parents divorcing, and other reasons), people “not being there for me,” the challenges of growing up, and boredom topped the teens’ lists of stressors.

The young people found strength in good relationships with friends and family. Other things that strengthened them and made them feel responsible and competent were helping others, being involved in activities like sports and living off the land, and giving back to their families and communities.

The authors say the young people sought self-reliance and meaningful ways to contribute and make their families and communities value them. These characteristics, the authors say, reflect cultural values and also suggest strategies for promoting better health among Alaska Native youth. The authors write:

Offering Alaska Native youth opportunities to be responsible, self-reliant, and active contributors to community betterment can be understood as providing culturally relevant resilience programming. Changing the focus from risk to resilience, future research can build on a community’s unique sociohistorical experiences, location, and meaning systems in order to develop locally driven youth initiatives to promote healthy development.

Additional references: Find abstracts of other literature on Alaska Native and Native American youth in our digital library.

The NCFY archive includes a story about Alaska’s efforts to promote successful transitions to adulthood for foster youth and runaway and homeless youth.

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children & Families.

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