Faculty Publication: Byers

Byers, L. (2010). Native american grandmothers: Cultural tradition and contemporary necessity. [Article]. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 19(4), 305-316. doi: 10.1080/15313204.2010.523653

This article offers insight into the situation of Native American grandmothers who are caregivers to younger generations. Nationally, tribal grandmothers rear grandchildren at percentages higher than any other ethnic minority group. Even though older Native American women have experienced challenges to their traditional roles as leaders, dispensers of wisdom, and spiritual guides, there exists a contemporary necessity to take the role of family head. Oklahoma provides a case example because of its large Native American population and high proportion of grandparent child rearing. This high rate can be traced to historical oppression and contemporary realities such as incarceration of middle-generation mothers. Oklahoma has the highest national rate of female incarceration and, as a result, a majority of their children live with grandparents. These multigenerational families, with a Native American grandmother at their head, are testimony to the strengths of the women and also highlight the need for supportive programs and policies.


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