Strengthening AI Mother-Infant Relationships: Development and Evaluation of a Decolonized Internet Intervention to Promote Successful Child Learning

Funding Agency: Submitted to W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Project Objectives

Over 500 years ago colonizers arrived on what is now known as North America to build a new nation, an American Dream. Sadly, the American Dream was predicated upon the Indigenous people’s nightmare, tearing apart families, communities and attempting to eliminate the being of the rightful people of this place. As the genocide of the Indigenous moved through time, elders and leaders spoke words that the White Man tells his story to the papers, but who will tell ours? The answer 500 years later is “no one”, as colonization necessitated blindness to history; we have no collective words to tell the American Indian story. Without a strong ancestral narrative for what these families are experiencing, the assaults of colonization can knock them off balance resulting in a myriad of difficulties that can affect the strength of the next generation. The current project merges a decolonizing cultural intervention, Finding Center (FC; Davis & Dionne, in press) developed within the AI community based on mindfulness that provides a narrative for AI families who are suffering from colonization, with an evidence-based mother-infant strengthening program (PALS).

PALS is conducive to the Indigenous way of being; one that does not focus on behavioral control but rather on mothers “seeing” their infant and responding in warm and nurturing ways to not only strengthen mother-infant connection but also improve infant development, socio-emotional health, and subsequent school learning (Landry, et al., 1996). The resultant AI-PALS parent intervention is aimed towards strengthening mother-infant connectedness, cultural strength and communication, as well as infant social-emotional development in order to decrease subsequent child difficulties and increase strength in learning. As well, our tribal communities cover a large service area and travel to intervene with families can be costly; the Internet can provide an efficient AI-PALS service delivery mechanism for agencies and will be utilized herein. We are fortunate to benefit from our prior NIH- and ACYF-funded work in: a) culturally-adapting mainstream programs (Davis, Dionne, & Fortin, in press); b) stressing the importance of decolonization (Davis & Dionne, in press); and c) adapting and implementing the PALS program via the Internet (Feil, et al., 2008; In the first 6 months of this project, we will integrate FC and PALS to create a culturally strong, Internet-based program; then provide the program to 60 mothers of infants living in societal disadvantage in the second half of Year 1 and in Year 02 via tablet computer. During intervention, mothers will take part in weekly telephone/Skype sessions with an ICFS-based family advocate to facilitate learning. Family advocates will be trained, building an infrastructure for sustainability and expansion.


Davis, B. & Dionne, R. (in preparation). The White man tells his story to the papers, but who will tells ours: Implications for public health policy and health disparities in American Indian communities. Manuscript to be submitted to American Journal of Public Health.

Davis, B., Dionne, R., & Fortin, M. (in press). Parenting in two cultural worlds in the presence of one dominant worldview. In H. Seline (Ed.) Parenting Across Cultures: Childrearing, Motherhood and Fatherhood in Non-Western Cultures, Science Across Culture Series, The Netherlands: Springer.

Feil, E. G., Baggett, K. M., Davis, B., Sheeber, L., Landry, S., Carta, J., & Buzhardt, J. (2008). Expanding the reach of preventive interventions: Development of an Internet-based training for parents of infants. Child Maltreatment, 13(4), 334-346.

Greenfield, B., Skewes, M.C., Dionne, R., Davis, B, Cwik, M., Venner, K., & Belcourt-Dittloff, A. (in press). Treatment for American Indians and Alaska Natives: Considering Cultural Adaptations. Behavior Therapist.

Landry, S. H., & Smith, K. E. (1996). Playing and learning strategies. Houston, TX: University of Texas Houston Health Science Center.

Landry, S. H., Smith, K. E., & Swank, P. R. (2003). The importance of parenting during early childhood for school age development. Developmental Neuropsychology, 24(2&3), 559-590.