With a little help from my friends: investigating communal mastery as a contributor to resilient outcomes among American Indians with substance use disorder

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/ANs) have endured significant historical and individual adversity across several generations. Such adversity is associated with negative mental, physical, and behavioral outcomes. However, this adversity is not always associated with negative outcomes for all AI/ANs. In order to understand the differences in AI/AN outcomes, protective factors buffering against negative outcomes need to be examined. Communal mastery, a relatively unexplored construct, has been posited as a potential protective factor for AI/AN people. The present study aimed to understand the relationship between communal mastery, risk factors specific to historical trauma and discrimination, and substance use. Moreover, we hoped to understand if communal mastery moderated the effects of historical loss and discrimination on substance use. Participants (N = 197) included tribal members from a Northern Plains reservation in recovery from substance use disorder or with the desire to change their substance use behavior. Data were analyzed using hierarchical multiple regression to understand if communal mastery is protective for substance use in the current AI sample. Contrary to my hypotheses, communal mastery did not moderate the relationship between culturally-specific risk factors (i.e. historical trauma and discrimination) and substance use. However, the present sample had high levels of communal mastery indicating that restriction of range may have affected the findings. Moreover, communal mastery may be protective at certain times in the recovery process but not when people are using substances. Also, historical loss was associated with greater levels of abstinence from substance use, contrary to predictions. Thus, future research should focus on the role of historical loss awareness in AI/AN recovery and investigate how communal mastery interacts with other risk factors to predict substance use outcomes in Indigenous populations.




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