“I had to Grow up Pretty Quickly”: Social, Cultural, and Gender Contexts of Aboriginal Girls’ Smoking

An Excerpt

The goals of this community-based study were to investigate Aboriginal girls’ interpretations of the impact of social context, gender, and cultural background on their smoking patterns, and contribute to research capacity in Aboriginal communities. A partnership with six Aboriginal communities in British Columbia involved community consultations; memoranda of understanding; team research training; and collaborative development, conduct, and evaluation of the research process. Focus groups and interviews were held with 63 Aboriginal girls (ages 13–19) of varying smoking statuses, and analyzed using qualitative techniques. Girls who identified as smokers or former smokers described four main contexts in which their smoking began and continued: experimentation and boredom; relational and peer pressures; drinking and partying; and stress relief. Among the stressors girls identified were gender inequities that placed more expectations for care-giving and domestic work on them compared to boys. While girls reported a mix of cultural influences and varying strengths of identification with their diverse Aboriginal backgrounds, girls who smoked generally expressed less knowledge about their Aboriginal backgrounds and local community cultural context. The complex interrelated influences of social context, gender, and cultural background indicate that smoking prevention programs for Aboriginal girls need to be tailored to community needs and address girls’ calls for girl- and culture-centred supports.

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