Work, worksites, and wellbeing among North American Indian women: a qualitative study

Karina Christiansen, Preety Gadhoke, Marla Pardilla, Joel Gittelsohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to understand what factors influenced work-family balance and related health behaviors among a sample of rural North American Indian women. We interviewed 89 women through both in-depth interviews and focus groups across four tribal communities in the American Southwest and Upper Midwest between July 2010 and August 2011. Interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed for emerging themes related to work- family demands placed on women and resources available to cope with those demands. Three prominent themes emerged: structural characteristics (the context of rural reservation life), role stressors (women’s multiple and conflicting roles) and the influence of social support (communal nature of care in the family and institutional support in the workplace). We found that women in participating rural reservation communities often acted as primary caregivers for both immediate and extended family, and often placed the needs of others before themselves. The context of rural reservations, with high rates of unemployment, poverty, and chronic illnesses associated with the collective trauma of colonization, placed high demands on female caregivers. Social support from within the workplace, family, and cultural traditions helped some female caregivers balance the demands of home and work. Tribal worksites could be a resource for promoting health and work-life balance by being responsive to the particular demands placed on women that often interfere with engaging in positive health behaviors in general and tribal wellness programs in particular.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-43
Number of pages20
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019


  • Indians
  • North American
  • qualitative research
  • social support
  • worksite wellness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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