Adolescent dating violence is a significant problem in the US in general. Research regarding programs that promote healthy dating relationships for Native American adolescents is however limited. This study explored cultural factors to consider in delivering a healthy relationship program with Native American youth, used this data to adapt an evidence-based program, and then pilot tested the culturally adapted program to see if it was effective in promoting healthy dating relationships attitudes and skills in this population. We used a mixed methods design in two phases. In the qualitative phase we conducted nine key informant interviews and two focus groups (N=30) with Native American youth attending a federal boarding high school and their professional support staff. The data was analyzed for emerging themes using grounded methods theory methods to explore youth perceptions and needs about forming healthy dating relationships. Information from this phase was then used to guide the adaptation of an evidence-based program, the Safe Dates. During the second phase, we used a pre-test and immediate post-test design to evaluate program response and outcomes. While 42 Native youth participated in the nine session program, data analyses was conducted with 29 participants who had matching pre and post test data.

A number of themes emerged during the qualitative phase. These included challenges and needs around dating skills, students’ school experience, students’ perceived cultural strengths and how they affected attitudes towards relationships. Findings indicated that students in this population are strong and resilient but are also in need of educational, emotional and relational guidance. While not statistically significant due to pilot study limitations in sample size, quantitative outcomes were promising, indicated consistent changes in the right direction and that the adapted program was well received by the participants. Our findings add to the limited literature regarding programs specifically tailored to the needs of Native American adolescents in general, and specifically in developing effective interventions that promote healthy dating. It adds to our understanding on how to culturally and contextually adapt existing evidence-based interventions to this vulnerable and often underserved population from a strength-based perspective. Our results suggest that taking time to adapt evidence-based programs is an important and necessary step toward effective and engaging program delivery.

LLU Discipline

Social Work


Social Work and Social Ecology


School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Montgomery, Susanne

Second Advisor

Freeman, Kimberly R.

Third Advisor

Pimentel, Gabriel

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Adolescent Behavior; Psychology - Adolescent; Courtship; Violence - Prevention & Control; American Native Continental Ancestry Group; Health Promotion; Social Work with Minorities

Subject - Local

Adolescent dating violence; Native American adolescents; Healthy Relationship Programs; Evidence-based Interventions



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives