Homicide rates among native American children: the status integration hypothesis

Homicide rates among native American children: the status integration hypothesis

Thomas J. Young

According to the status integration hypothesis, the potential for violent behavior increases with role confusion. As a society develops from a simple gemeinschaft based on shared, traditional, and unquestioned norms to a complex gesellschaft marked by changing and tenuous norms, violence increases from the resulting normlessness (Tonnies, 1964). Several researchers have reported findings to support this hypothesis and have noted that the participation of females in the labor force serves as an index of status integration (Stack, 1978; Young & French, 1995). The greater the rate of female labor force participation, the less the status integration, and the greater the rate of violence. The present study sought cross-cultural replication by examining the correlation between the percentage of Native American females in the labor force and the homicide rates for Native American children in U.S. Indian Health Service (IHS) areas.


The 1979-1981 homicide rates per 100,000 population for Native American children (1 month to 14 years old) were calculated from unpublished data provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for all 12 IHS areas: Aberbeen, Alaska, Albuquerque, Bemidji, Billings, California, Nashville, Navajo, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Portland, and Tucson. This source also provided data on the extent of female participation in the labor force for each IHS area, which was calculated in terms of female wage and salary workers as a percentage of all wage and salary workers.


A moderately strong, positive Spearman’s correlation coefficient (Rho = .56, p [less than] .05) was found for the percentage of Native American females in the labor force in IHS areas (M = 43.37, SD = 1.42) and the IHS homicide rates for Native American children (M = 8.37 victims per 100,000 population, SD = 5.86). This finding supports the hypothesis of status integration. IHS areas with high (or low) percentages of Native American females in the labor force had high (or low) homicide rates for Native American children. Approximately 31% of the variance in the IHS homicide rates for these children was explained by the percentage of females in the labor force.

As a number of scholars have noted, the impact of European cultures and the introduction of wage work destroyed aboriginal clan and kinship structures (Brown, 1979; Eggan, 1966; Shurky Hamamsy, 1979). These changes emphasized nuclear families, territorial ties, and a pat-rilineally biased bilateral system. The stresses of social change and acculturation produced role conflict, confusion, and normlessness. Changing and tenuous norms and the breakdown of status integration are important variables in explaining violence in contemporary Native American cultures (French, 1982; Young, 1990, 1993). The disruption of aboriginal family and kinship systems has created an anomic situation that is associated with the murder of Native American children.


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Young, T. J. (1990). Native American crime and criminal justice require criminologists’ attention. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 1, 111-116.

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Young, T. J., & French, L. A. (1995). Suicide and status integration among Native American women. Social Behavior and personality, 23, in press.

Lawrence A. French, Ph.D., Western New Mexico University.

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