Inter-generational transmission of Indigenous culture and children’s wellbeing: Evidence from Australia

JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
PublishedNovember 2019
Number of Pages14

A limited body of empirical evidence suggests a strong sense of cultural identity promotes wellbeing and other socio-economic outcomes for First Nations people, including for Indigenous Australians. A challenge to this evidence is potential endogeneity: that Indigenous people who achieve positive outcomes are then more likely to maintain and engage in their traditional culture. Data from Australia’s Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children were used to address that challenge. Indigenous parents’ attitudes and practices with respect to passing on traditional culture to their children in early childhood were related to children’s later health and socio-emotional adjustment. Exploratory factor analysis identified three key elements of parental transmission of Indigenous culture to their children: connection to country, connection to kin and traditional knowledge. Parents fostering a strong kinship connection was found to contribute to positive child development. Positive effects of connection to country and parental desires to pass on traditional knowledge were also identified in some regional contexts, providing further evidence that traditional Indigenous cultures should be seen as a resource for addressing Indigenous disadvantage, not a contributing factor. The research design eliminates the possibility of (the child’s) outcomes ‘causing’ greater cultural identity or engagement, but not the possibility of omitted variables shaping both parents’ practices toward cultural engagement and child outcomes.