Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

The Role of Indigenous Family Ethnic Schema on Well-Being among Native Hawaiian Families

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

The Role of Indigenous Family Ethnic Schema on Well-Being among Native Hawaiian Families

Article excerpt


Many scholars have noted the importance of family in Indigenous communities in maintaining Indigenous cultural identity, values and beliefs across generations (Kanahele 1986; Kanaiaupuni 2004; McCubbin & McCubbin 2005; Oneha 2001; Rezentes 1996). In many ethnic communities, the family has been viewed as the system for intergenerational transmission of traditions in order to keep the culture and ethnic heritage alive (McCubbin, Thompson, Thompson, Elver & McCubbin 1998). Despite assertions of the importance of family on overall well-being (Kanaiaupuni 2004; Oneha 2001; Policy Analysis and System Evaluation 2005), there remains a paucity of research and a lack of measurement on Indigenous families' worldviews or schema and their respective impact on well-being.

Family schema is a system level construct defined as 'a structure of fundamental convictions, values, beliefs and expectations' (McCubbin, Thompson & McCubbin 1996: 39). It is shaped and adopted by the family system over time and serves as the shared informational framework against and through which family experiences and behaviors are processed and evaluated. Thus a family schema, expressed through the family's dispositional world view, includes cultural and ethnic beliefs and values and serves as a framework for guiding, shaping, and evaluating family behavior. Not only does a family's schema and its appraisal process give order, harmony, balance and stability to family life, it plays an influential role in shaping and legitimizing the family's old, established, newly instituted and maintained patterns of functioning as well as the family's problem solving and coping behaviors and patterns (McCubbin & McCubbin 2005); Thompson & McCubbin 1996: 39). Ultimately, family schémas play a key role in shaping the 'meaning' given to family situations and experiences which in turn facilitates coping and adaptation. The viability of family schema as a system construct is evident in the literature inclusive of explaining the variability in children's gender cognition (Tennenbaum 2002), family resilience (Hawley & Delraan 1996), family adaptation to brain injury (Kosciulek 1997), advancement of family system therapy (Dattilio 2005), treatment of overweight female adolescents (Turner, Rose & Cooper 2005), the assessment of a family with an asthmatic child (Masterson 1985) and intergenerational communication (Lin, Zhang & Harwood (2004).

The purpose of this investigation is to advance this line of inquiry by examining the relationship between Indigenous family ethnic schema and family member well-being among Native Hawaiians.


The plight of Native Hawaiians in the state of Hawaii has been well documented. Research has found Native Hawaiian adults are either at the top or close to the top of every category of medical disease, social pathology, and psychological maladaptation (e.g. Davis et al. 2004; Hughes & Higuchi 2004; Ka'ano'i, Braun & Gotay 2004; Johnson, Oyama, LeMarchand & Wilkens 2004). Native Hawaiian adults have the highest prevalence rates of hypertension, diabetes, asthma and obesity in addition to the shortest life expectancy for any racial/ethnic group in the state (Davis et al. 2004; Johnson et al. 2004; Kaholokula, Haynes, Grandinetti & Chang 2006). Native Hawaiians also have high rates of suicide and suicide attempts especially among young men (Yuen, Nahulu, Hishinuma & Miyamoto 2000). Native Hawaiians also have high rates of substance abuse, depression and anxiety disorders compared to non-Hawaiians (Andrade et al. 2006; Guerrero et al. 2003; Kaholokula et al. 2006; Marsella et al. 1995; Prescott et al. 1998). The predominant research focus in previous studies has been on the deficits of Native Hawaiians in comparison to their nonHawaiian and Anglo-European counterparts. Many other Indigenous populations in the Pacific are facing similar challenges and health risk factors with research following a similar pattern for uncovering what is wrong or deficient in these populations. …

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