Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Human Development and Family Studies


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Heather L. Rouse

Second Advisor

Cassandra J. Dorius


Using a nationally representative dataset (Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort) and bioecological-cumulative disadvantage framework, the present study examined school readiness among American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) children. It investigated the relations between salient child and family risk experiences (i.e., poverty, preterm/low birth weight, low maternal education, single motherhood, inadequate prenatal care, teen motherhood, and severe maternal depression), and kindergarten academic (i.e., reading and math) and behavioral outcomes (i.e., social competence, approaches to learning, and externalizing behaviors). Descriptive statistics (representative of children born in 2001) revealed 58.5% of AIAN children experienced poverty at least once prior to kindergarten entry and 45% experienced two or more risks. Hierarchical linear regression examining cumulative risk counts explained less variance in all outcomes than individual risk models and were not significant for behavior outcomes. Regression models with all seven individual risks revealed that poverty exposure at any point prior to kindergarten meaningfully impacted academic skills; however, individual risks were not uniquely related to parent-reported behavioral skills. Individual risk models accounted for 12% and 13% of unique variance in reading and math, respectively. Significant moderation effects were found for behavior outcomes indicating maternal characteristics such as single motherhood, teen motherhood, and low maternal education were related to behavior only in the context of poverty. Findings suggested children who experienced poverty and had mothers without a high school diploma or who gave birth as teenagers demonstrated lower social competence and approaches to learning and higher externalizing behaviors. Interestingly, findings also revealed children of single mothers who experience poverty scored higher on approaches to learning and lower on externalizing behaviors than children with married/cohabitating parents experiencing poverty. Given the salience of specific combinations of poverty and maternal characteristics for AIAN children, implications for two-generation programming is discussed along with the potential value of extended family networks. In light of the findings regarding single mothers, more research is needed to explore the unique experiences of AIAN families in the context of their cultural networks to better understand the strengths and protective factors supporting these families en route to resilient outcomes.

Copyright Owner

Quentin Hoage Riser



File Format


File Size

120 pages