Adolescence is a period of development characterized by risk-taking, sensation-seeking, emotionally-inﬂuenced and independence-seeking behaviours. There is a move away from family and towards the social inﬂuences of peer groups. Emotionally-driven behaviours may override adolescents’ higher cognitive functioning during this time. Especially vulnerable are youth who have been the victim of high-impact trauma or chronic abuse and neglect. Speciﬁcally, the posttraumatic stress symptomatology that is often associated with experiences of abuse and neglect may impair the ability of youth to cope during this developmental period. This is where intervention by community workers may be used to support teens with a history of maltreatment, as they develop from children to adolescents and, ﬁnally, to adults. Part of such intervention includes violence prevention in families and in teen dating relationships, as well as directly addressing posttraumatic stress disorder symptomatology. This critical developmental period of adolescence presents community workers with an opportunity to intervene and guide the development of these youth, building upon resiliency factors, such as areas of individual mastery and empowerment and participation within the community. Aboriginal youth with a history of maltreatment present a special case for community workers. These youth have been subjected to intense acculturation pressures that do not exist for other adolescent populations, which create unique problems during their transition to adulthood. In order to intervene in the most effective manner, it is necessary to understand the psychological and physiological developmental processes that are unfolding in the adolescent brain. We discuss adolescent development in general and among Aboriginal adolescents, in particular. We present ways to support both groups through these challenging periods that are empirically-based and supported by research.
This paper describes the development of and pilot results for an alcohol abuse early intervention program targeting at-risk Mi’kmaq youth conducted in partnership with the communities in which these youth live and the schools which they attend. This intervention was based on a previously-established, successful psychoeducational and cognitive-behavioral approach for at-risk adolescent drinkers from the majority culture that focuses on differentpersonality pathways to alcohol abuse in youth (Conrod, Stewart, Comeau, & MacLean, 2006). Through partnership and collaboration with two Mi’kmaq communities, the original intervention was adapted to be culturally appropriate for Mi’kmaq youth. The culturally-adapted intervention included traditional Mi’kmaq knowledge and teachings in order to make the program as meaningful and relevant as possible in the partner communities (Comeau et al., 2005). The pilot results were encouraging. Compared to pre-intervention, students who participated in the intervention drank less, engaged in less binge-drinking episodes (i.e., 5 drinks or more/occasion), had fewer alcoholrelated problems, and were more likely to abstain from alcohol use. Moreover, students who participated in the intervention also reduced their marijuana use at four-month post-intervention, even though the intervention was speciﬁcally designed to target alcohol misuse. No such signiﬁcant changes were observed in a non-random control group of eligible students who did not participate in the intervention. Future research should determine if this intervention is effective for at-risk youth in other First Nations communities across Canada, and whether the promising, but preliminary results with marijuana mean that the beneﬁts of the intervention might extend to adolescents’ use of substances other than alcohol.
In April of 2006, a team of researchers consisting of both university and community partners from a Mi’kmaq reserve in Nova Scotia began the data-collection phase of a high school-based research study that had been two years in planning. The study examines the possible relationships between youth-reported childhood maltreatment, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, depressive symptoms, alcohol misuse, and resiliency factors. The aim of the research study is to provide information about adolescent alcohol misuse that is of practical beneﬁt to community-based service providers, and capable of making a scholarly contribution to the scientiﬁc study of the relations of anxiety/mood symptoms and addictive behaviours. The primary aim of this paper is to present both the context from which the project grew, and the steps involved in conducting research with our school partners and the community service providers. A secondary aim is to present some of the preliminary data from the study, with a speciﬁc focus on resiliency.
This paper considers the clinical issue of self-harming behaviours, deﬁned as intentional self-injury that results in tissue damage. It is distinct from a suicide attempt, as self-harm does not occur within the context of a conscious wish to die. Self-harming behaviours among children and youth is a recent area of research. To date, studies indicate that in community samples, self-harming behaviours occur in as many as 35% of youth who are sampled (Gratz, 2001). Alarmingly, very little is known about self-harming behaviours among children and youth within the child protection system. This study, drawing from data gathered through a government-mandated reporting procedure of all children and youth in care,attempted to explore self-harming behaviours of children and youth in welfare care. While analyses did not focus explicitly on Aboriginal children and youth, it does consider differences in self-harming behaviours among minority and non-minority children and youth in care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto. Approximately half of all child welfare cases that go through the child protection system in Toronto fall under the responsibility of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto. Although minority status was not signiﬁcantly related to the number of self-harming attempts or threats, results suggested that minority children and youth in care were less likely to use puncture-type behaviour (cutting, scratching, stabbing) as a means of serious self harm. Results suggest that although self- harm may be a universal phenomenon, culture may affect how children and youth in care engage in self-harming behaviours. Direction of future research should consider between-cultural effects and more importantly, how these culture-speciﬁc differences may impact on children and youth’s self-harming behaviours.
This article introduces readers to the Maltreatment and Adolescent Pathways (MAP) study. The MAP is a longitudinal study that follows active case ﬁles of mid-adolescents in a large urban child protective services (CPS) system. The MAP is a unique opportunity to collect information from teens about their physical health (e.g., sleep quality), mental health (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder) and cognitive style (e.g., attention, memory). The MAP study samples the population of CPS teens on questions that are used in provincial teen surveys, allowing for points of comparison to non-CPS teens. The MAP tracks youth development over 2.5 years. Although the MAP currently has a very small number of Aboriginal teens, the responses of these teens may focus practitioner and researcher attention to priority areas for further research. This includes the investigation of how some research issues, such as maltreatment history, personal safety, relationship to primary CPS worker and suicidal ideation, may be cross-informative. It is known that teen risk behaviours cluster together, but it is important to understand the relationships among these variables. An understanding of these relationships can drive knowledge creation, as well as practice and policy change. Finally, the MAPstudy has succeeded given a successful collaborative partnership between hospital, university, and CPS partners who both strive to keep the youths’ best interests in the forefront.
In recent years, policymakers and medical experts have expressed alarm about the growing problem of tobacco related deaths, most speciﬁcally from smoking cigarettes. Even more alarming is the rate of tobacco use among Aboriginal people and speciﬁcally Aboriginal youth. This paper explores how a holistic approach coupled with Aboriginal healthcare professionals is necessary for an effective smoking prevention program. Moreover, recommendations are provided based on this information to help devise an effective smoking prevention program encompassing all four aspects of health; mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.
Aboriginal families are highly overrepresented in child welfare caseloads. Major reasons for these high rates of involvement include poverty and housing issues, which contribute to perceptions of child neglect. In Winnipeg, the city with the highest proportion of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, low-cost housing is concentrated in core neighbourhoods. Homeless youth in these neighbourhoods, who are involved or have been involved in child welfare, were asked about their life experiences and the kind of housing that would help them. They talked about the need to be seen as resourceful, contributing members of the community, as well as their continued need of support from others, including friends and family. They wanted more than a place to sleep; they wanted a home that was safe, nurturing and long-term. The youth had school and work aspirations for themselves and wanted to help other youth reach their goals. There is a need for expansion of community-based and community-driven housing with youth who have been involved in the child welfare system.
Attachment theory has become one of the most inﬂuential models guiding parent-child relationships in programs of prevention, treatment, and education, including programs for Aboriginal parents. However, whether the model can be reliably applied when working with Aboriginal peoples has not yet been established. Studies on attachment security conducted with different cultural groups provide a means of comparing naturally occurring differences in parenting practices and socio-emotional environments of children. These studies report inconsistencies of attachment security across cultures and suggest that consideration should be given to cultural differences when applying attachment theory across cultures. In this article, we analyse the correspondence between attachment theory and descriptions of Aboriginal parenting and question the relevance of attachment theory to Aboriginal parents who do not adhere to the mother-infant dyad as the sole contributor to the child’s sense of security.