A latent class analysis of urban American Indian youth identities

Stephen Kulis, Danielle E. Robbins, Tahnee M. Baker, Serena Denetsosie, Nicholet A. Deschine Parkhurst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective: This study examined sources of indigenous identity among urban American Indian youth that map the three theoretical dimensions of a model advanced by Markstrom: identification (tribal and ethnic heritage), connection (through family and reservation ties), and involvement in traditional culture and spirituality. Method: Data came from self-administered questionnaires completed by 208 urban American Indian students from five middle schools in a large metropolitan area in the Southwest. Results: Descriptive statistics showed most youth were connected to multiple indicators on all three dimensions of indigenous identity: native parental heritage, native best friends, past and current reservation connections, involvement with cultural practices, tribal language and spirituality, and alignment with native and mainstream cultural orientations. A latent class analysis identified five classes. There were two larger groups, one with strong native heritage and the highest levels of enculturation, and another that was more bicultural in orientation. The remaining three groups were smaller and about equal in size: a highly acculturated group with mixed parental ethnic heritage, those who had strong native heritage but were culturally disengaged, and a group with some mixed ethnic heritage that was low on indicators of enculturation. Evidence for the validity of the latent classes came from significant variations across the classes in scores on an American Indian ethnic identity (modified Phinney) scale, the students' openended descriptions of the main sources of their indigenous identities, and the better academic grades of classes that were more culturally engaged. Conclusions: Despite the challenges of maintaining cultural identities in the urban environment, most youth in this sample expressed a strong sense of indigenous identity, claimed personal and parental tribal heritage, remained connected to reservation communities, and actively engaged in Native cultural and spiritual life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-228
Number of pages14
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Adolescents
  • American indian
  • Identity
  • Indigenous
  • Urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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