Date of Award

Summer 6-21-2024

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Marcia Bennett


In Alaska, 46 to 91 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced physical intimate partner violence (IPV), compared to all women in other states, where the prevalence ranges from seven to 51 percent (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Experiencing physical IPV has negative consequences on the mother’s physical and mental well-being, and has been associated with increased vulnerability to postpartum depression (PPD). Compared to other populations, American Indian and Alaska Native women are at greater risk for PPD due to less access to resources and less research on treatments (MacDorman, 2011). Additionally, American Indian and Alaska Native women face shared historical trauma, including cultural genocides and forced relocation (Brown, 2019; Brown-Rice, 2020). This trauma is believed to play a role in the prevalence of both physical IPV and PPD in these cultures (Rosay, 2016). Protective factors against the development of PPD after IPV also exist in these cultures, including spirituality, family values, and group unity (Kenyon & Hanson, 2012). Despite protective factors, physical IPV and PPD are detrimental to the health of mothers and could impact the mother’s choices, such as choosing to breastfeed (Hamdan & Tamim, 2012). While research shows that physical IPV and PPD separately lead to a shorter duration of breastfeeding, there is no research on how these factors contribute to breastfeeding duration in the among American Indian and Alaska Native peoples. The author sought to fill this gap in the research using the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring and Surveillance (PRAMS) Alaska 2020 dataset. Results showed that women who reported physical IPV both before and during pregnancy had more PPD symptoms than women who reported no physical IPV. The results also showed no relationships between physical IPV and breastfeeding duration, and PPD symptoms and breastfeeding duration. Findings of this study shed light on the mental health consequences of physical IPV in the American Indian and Alaska Native population. Despite significant challenges in this community, there are numerous strengths, such as spiritual factors, healing traditions, wisdom, and community support (Heck, 2018; Kenyon & Hanson, 2012).


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