Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The appropriateness of using standardized intelligence tests with minority populations has become a controversial topic for both researchers and practitioners. It has been suggested that the validity of such instruments is compromised due to biases in content and failure to consider culturally based learning style differences. A number of Familial variables such as socioeconomic status (SES) and cultural identification are also believed to impact performance.

Native American children typically score lower on the verbal scales of the Wechsler tests than non-Native children. Conversely, Native American children have demonstrated average or slightly superior perceptual skills that allow them to score higher on performance sub-scales of the Wechsler tests. Caution is warranted in the interpretation of previous results due to biases in the samples used. Samples typically consisted of children referred for educational or behavioral problems, and factors such as SES and cultural orientation were not factored into the interpretation of results.

The purpose of my thesis research was to investigate Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III) performance differences between non-referred Native American and non-referred Euro-American adolescents. Non-referred status applied to youth that do not receive special education services or meet criteria for a DSM-IV diagnosis. Family cultural orientation was examined, utilizing the Northern Plains Biculturalism Inventory (NPBI). The family’s social class status was determined by using the Hollingshead Social Position Index. The sample consisted of 30 Native American and 31 Euro-American children from local elementary schools.

It was hypothesized there would be no statistically significant differences between the overall performance of the non-ieferred Native American and Euro-American samples on the WISC-III, that Native American children identified as more bicultural/assimilated would perform similar to their mainstream counterparts, and that Native American children identified as more traditional in cultural orientation would perform different than their more bicultural/assimilated Native American counterparts. The first 2 hypotheses were supported as no statistically significant differences between the Native American and Euro-American samples were found in their overall performances on the WISC-III, with the exception of 1 subtest, Information. The Euro- American sample performed significantly better. The performance of the Native American children identified as more traditional in cultural orientation was found to be similar to their more assimilated/bicultural Native American counterparts, which was not hypothesized.

The degree to which environment, cultural orientation and the mental health status of Native American children impacts their performance on cognitive tests is not well understood. Tire current study provides some valuable insight into the effects of cultural orientation and other factors in the performance of non-referred Native American children using the WISC-III. Study limitations and suggestions for future research are also detailed.