Methods: 3,635 AI students attending 37 schools located on or near reservations distributed across six U.S. continental regions were administered surveys during the 2015-2017 school years (52% female, Mage=14.8). Identity-relevant SU predictors were modeled as latent factors, which included cultural identification with AI and non-AI way of life (WOL) and traditional activities (TA), social and affective ethnic pride (SEP and AEP), and perceived peer discrimination (PPD). Observed SU outcomes included students’ lifetime and 30 day alcohol use, alcohol intoxication and cannabis use. After confirming adequate fit of the measurement model using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), two separate Structural Equation Models (SEM) were fit to ascertain the pattern of associations between identity–relevant predictors and lifetime/30-day SU among AI youth.
Results: The CFA indicated good fit for the measurement model of identity-relevant predictors. Likewise, the final SEMs predicting lifetime and 30 day use both demonstrated good fit to the data. Unsurprisingly, PPD was a risk-factor for both 30-day and lifetime alcohol use and intoxication, as well as cannabis use. Interestingly, AI-WOL was protective against lifetime alcohol and cannabis use, while AI-TA was a risk factor for both lifetime and 30-day cannabis use. Neither SEP nor AEP were significantly associated with lifetime use of any substance; however, AEP was negatively related to 30 day alcohol intoxication and cannabis use.
Conclusion: Our results underscore the complexity inherent in the relationship between AI cultural identification, ethnic pride and SU among AI youth, particularly in the case of cannabis use. Future research should focus on how identification with AI way of life, which may reflect a more values-oriented dimension that is inconsistent with SU, differs from identification with AI traditional activities in understanding how cultural identification relates to risk of substance use among AI youth.