American Indian and Alaska Native Children and Mental Health
Development, Context, Prevention, and Treatment
by Michelle C. Sarche, Paul Spicer, Patricia Farrell, and Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Editors
September 2011, 408pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-38304-5
$75, £58, 66€, A103
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eBook Available: 978-0-313-38305-2
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American Indian and Alaska Native youth suffer disproportionately higher rates of trauma, substance abuse, and youth suicide. At the same time, there is great diversity and many unacknowledged strengths in contemporary native communities that can and should be a part of any solution to these problems.

This unique book examines the physical, psychological, social, and environmental factors that support or undermine healthy development in American Indian children, including economics, biology, and public policies.

The reasons for mental health issues among American Indian and Alaska Native children have not been well understood by investigators outside of tribal communities. Developing appropriate methodological approaches and evidence-based programs for helping these youths is an urgent priority in developmental science. This work must be done in ways that are cognizant of how the negative consequences of colonization contribute to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal members’ underutilization of mental health services, higher therapy dropout rates, and poor response to culturally insensitive treatment programs.

This book examines the forces affecting psychological development and mental health in American Indian children today. Experts from leading universities discuss factors such as family conditions, economic status, and academic achievement, as well as political, social, national, and global influences, including racism. Specific attention is paid to topics such as the role of community in youth mental health issues, depression in American Indian parents, substance abuse and alcohol dependency, and the unique socioeconomic characteristics of this ethnic group.


  • Includes both a subject and author index to facilitate further research
Michelle C. Sarche is assistant professor at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado, Denver, CO; a clinical psychologist; and a tribal member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe. She has worked extensively with American Indian communities conducting research on early development, parenting, and mental health across the lifespan. Sarche is codirector of the American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Research Center, and is the principal investigator of a community-based project to expand Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) prevention efforts in the tribal community.

Paul Spicer is professor of anthropology and faculty at the Center for Applied Social Research at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; member of the board of ZERO TO THREE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to infants and toddlers; and codirector of the American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Research Center. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Oklahoma, Spicer spent 13 years in the American Indian and Alaska Native Programs at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, CO. He has led research efforts in substance abuse and mental health, children's health and development, and genetics.

Patricia Farrell is assistant provost of University-Community Partnerships in the Office of University Outreach and Engagement at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; and is an enrolled member of Taos Pueblo. She is also coprincipal investigator for two early childhood funded initiatives focused on Michigan's American Indian Head Start programs and improving educational outcomes for young boys of color in an urban school district. She has extensive experience with K–12 school reform, school health programs, early childhood initiatives, and the promotion of campus-community partnerships.

Hiram E. Fitzgerald is series editor for the Praeger series, Child Psychology and Mental Health. He is associate provost for University Outreach and Engagement and University Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; and adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Fitzgerald is a member of the steering committees of the Early Head Start National Research Consortium, the American Indian/Alaska Native Head Start Research Center, and is a member of the Native Children's Research Exchange. He is editor of Infant Mental Health Journal and associate editor of Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement. Fitzgerald has received the Selma Fraiberg Award, the WAIMH Award, and the ZERO TO THREE Dolley Madison Award for his work involving families with very young children.


"This work, part of the Child Psychology and Mental Health series, is an important addition to the literature regarding American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) health and health care. . . . This book belongs in the library of any college with programs in Native studies and/or health programs to prepare care providers to effectively meet the needs of AI/AN clients. Highly recommended."—Choice, April 1, 2012

"In this work, we now have a psychology book about American Indian and Alaska Native children that edifies us with its depths as well as with its particular Native points of view. . . . Further, its topics are wielded into a corpus of interdependent material elegantly bound together into an organic whole. . . . As I finished this book, I considered that more work in this area is needed. Such a thought is a compliment. Good writing always leads to more writing."—PsycCRITIQUES, June 27, 2012
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