Go To Contents
Go to Chapter 1

Interpersonal Relationships Between
Indian and Eskimo Secondary Students
and Their Boarding Home Parents

Judith Kleinfeld


Produced and Published in Collaboration with the
Center for Northern Educational Research,
University of Alaska
Institute of Social, Economic and Government Research
University of Alaska




At this time, I would like to express my appreciation to Mr. Jim Harper, Director of Regional Schools and Boarding Home Program, who contracted with the Center for Northern Education at the University of Alaska for this research and strongly supported it.

I would also like to thank the very hard working and insightful Boarding Home Program coordinators during 1970-71 — Mrs. Betty Magnuson, Miss Tony Evans, Mrs. Pat Darby, Reverend Richard Simmonds, Mr. Oscar Kawagley, Miss Kay Sommers, Miss Nancy Martin, Miss Kathy Bowman, Mr. David Gransbury, Miss Mimi Martin, Miss Gaye Billington, and Miss Sarah Hanuske — for discussing the program and its problems with me and providing the benefit of their experience. Many of the ideas included in this paper are derived from points they have made.

Special thanks are also due to Miss Irene Cleworth, the 1970-71 Fairbanks program school counselor, who provided many points about communication problems and strategies. I also appreciate the careful research of Mr. Jon Peterson, Director of the Rural Transition Center, and Mr. Jim Coats, Director of Psychological Services in the Anchorage Borough School District, who provided the dramatic information about achievement gains of Boarding Home Program students.

The Fairbanks Native Association Advisory Board, under the leadership first of Mrs. Kitty Harwood and then of Mrs. Betty Johnson, also provided many valuable suggestions concerning the direction of this research.

Dr. Charles Ray, who directed the project, contributed substantially to all phases of this work.

Finally, I would like to thank the many Boarding Home Program parents and students who were interviewed. I hope this work is of direct benefit to them. All errors in this report are, of course, my responsibility alone.

— JK

March 1972

Library of Congress Catalog Number 72-619526
Series: ISEGR Report No. 32
Published by
Institute of Social, Economic and Government Research
Fairbanks, Alaska




The systematic study and analysis of Alaska’s educational needs has recently been organized under the auspices of the Center for Northern Educational Research (CNER), at the University of Alaska. Created by resolution of the Board of Regents, the Center has, as its primary responsibility, research and program development associated with public education.

Prior to the inception of the Center, the Institute of Social, Economic and Government Research (ISEGR) had as one of its areas of research interest, the study of various aspects of Alaska education. Much of ISEGR's work in this area was performed in collaboration with the University of Alaska's Department of Education. Reports published by ISEGR include a survey of Alaska's higher education facilities, a review of the college orientation program for Native students, and a demographic review of Alaska's school enrollments. ISEGR will continue its interest in the problems and needs of education in Alaska in collaboration and cooperation with the Center for Northern Educational Research. It is appropriate, therefore, that the first educational research for which the Center has been responsible should be reported as a joint publication of CNER and ISEGR.

Dr. J.S. Kleinfeld of ISEGR prepared this report as a joint ISEGR-CNER publication. Dr. Kleinfeld has also written on the cognitive strengths of Eskimos and their implications for education and has examined the achievement profiles of Native ninth graders. Current research by Dr. Kleinfeld is concerned with further analysis of the cognitive development and secondary education of Alaska Native students.

The research reported here was conducted through the Center for Northern Educational Research, with support from the State Department of Education's Division of Regional Schools and Boarding Home Program, with Johnson-O'Malley funds. Dr. Charles Ray, of the Department of Education and CNER, served as project director and contributed substantially to all phases of the work. Dr. Kleinfeld served as project developer. A coordinating committee composed of a Native college student, a school board member, and representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Division of Regional Schools and Boarding Home Program guided project activities.

The number and complexity of issues related to public education in Alaska become increasingly obvious. Treatment of the subject this paper reports on is not only a valuable contribution toward resolving some of the problems in the Regional Schools and Boarding Home Program, but it also serves as an example of the quality of work we may come to expect in the topics dealing with public education in Alaska still to be investigated.


  Frank Darnell Victor Fischer
April, 1972 Director, CNER Director, ISEGR





In Alaska's Boarding Home Program, rural students from small villages without high schools attend secondary school by living with a boarding home family. Most rural students in this program are Eskimo or Athabascan Indian, and the majority are placed with white families in urban areas. This study attempts to describe the subtle interpersonal tensions that develop in the boarding home parent-student relationship. It also attempts to identify the characteristics of successful and unsuccessful boarding home parents and ways of matching parents to students in a manner that maximizes mutual satisfaction.

The focus on the characteristics of boarding home parents who develop satisfactory relationships with students, rather than a focus on the characteristics of rural students who successfully adjust to the urban environment, was chosen because it seemed likely to be most useful to the program staff. Since the program accepts almost all applicants and other options are unavailable, little selection of students can occur. Selection of parents, however, is a major and routine program activity. It should be underscored, however, that rural students differ widely in their capacity to adjust to an urban boarding home, and some students have severe psychological problems that probably would prevent them from adapting to any urban home.

The method of obtaining information consisted primarily of interviewing boarding home parents and students. A detailed description of the methodology may be found in Appendix II.

Summary of Recommendations

As a result of the study, the investigators developed several recommendations that they believe will improve the Boarding Home Program and strengthen secondary education in Alaska.

1. A system of high school options is needed in rural secondary school planning.

Rural students and their parents should be able to choose the type of program — boarding home, area or regional high school, or local high school — that is most appropriate to their individual needs. Information should be made available on the different types of secondary school programs and their effects in order that choices can be made on an informed basis. Providing options to students within a region may much more successfully promote the growth of different types of students than the present regional planning approach, where all rural students must attend the particular secondary school program in their region.

II. As other secondary school alternatives become available to rural students, the Boarding Home Program should become much more selective in the types of boarding home parents chosen.

Improvements in the methods of selecting boarding home parents and in matching parents to students may greatly increase the success of the program. Parents who can communicate warmth to rural students in an open demonstrative way and who make only necessary demands in a style that allows the student to preserve a sense of autonomy should be selected. These parents are most likely to be successful. Cold, authoritarian parents should be eliminated from the program as they tend to destroy students' self-esteem and cause them to rebel against even legitimate demands on their behavior. Boarding home parents who live a village life style in the city should be used with caution. They may offer a desirable home for new, stable students from traditional villages, or for students who are adult men, but they find it difficult to influence the behavior of those students enticed by city excitements.

Boarding home parents should be matched with rural students on the basis of many criteria, especially that of the congruency of the parents' and the students' goals. Boarding home parents who are achievement oriented may provide especially useful help to similarly achievement oriented students, although they may be unsuccessful with rural students who have other concerns.

Ill. The role of the boarding home parents should be defined in a way that confirms the status and legitimate authority of the student's natural parents.

Boarding home parents should be advised to treat the rural student not "like their own child," but rather as the student's natural parents "would like to have him treated." Such a philosophy would encourage greater communication between the boarding home parents and natural parents, thus avoiding many problems and maintaining the legitimate position of the natural parents.

Table of Contents


The Boarding Home Program


Administration and Secondary School Placement


Boarding Home Family Selection








Affect Structure


Status Structure


Power Structure


Communication Structure




Motivational and Demographic Variables


Behavioral Variables


Type I Boarding Home Parents: Low Communicated Warmth - High Perceived Demandingness


Case 1


Case II


Type II Boarding Home Parents: Low Communicated Warmth - Low Perceived Demandingness


Type III Boarding Home Parents: High Communicated Warmth - Low Perceived Demandingness


Case III


Case IV


Type IV Boarding Home Parents: High Communicated Warmth - Moderate to High Perceived Demandingness


Case V


Case VI


Redefinition of Boarding Home Parents' Role to Restore Legitimate Authority of Natural Parents


A Rural Secondary School Option System to Meet the Different Needs of Different Types of Rural Students

APPENDIX I: Test Scores of Urban Boarding Home Program Students 77
APPENDIX II: Methodology 84
APPENDIX III: Boarding Home Program Parent and Student Interview Forms 90



List of Tables

TABLE 1: Enrollment and Drop-out in Boarding Home Program, 1966-1972 3
TABLE 2: Area and Ethnic Group Distribution of Students in Regional  
  Schools and Boarding Home Program, 1970 6
TABLE 3: Age and Grade Distribution of Students in Regional  
  Schools and Boarding Home Program 27
TABLE 4: Frequency of Boarding Home Parent-Student Discussion of  
  Problems in Anchorage and Fairbanks, 1970-71 47
TABLE 5: Student Opinion of Boarding Homes in Anchorage and  
  Fairbanks, Spring 1970-71 76
TABLE I-1 Gains on Stanford Achievement Tests 78
TABLE I-2 Gains on Wechsler Adult Intelligence Test; Scores of  
  Ninth and Tenth Grade Anchorage Boarding Home Students 79
TABLE I-3 Fairbanks Boarding Home Program Ninth Grade Students'  
  Final Grades, May 1971 80
TABLE I-4 Fairbanks Boarding Home Program Tenth-Twelfth Grade  
  Students' Grades for Third Quarter, Jan. 22 - March 26, 1971 81


List of Figures

FIGURE 1: Projected Enrollment and Percentage of Increase  
  by School Year of Rural Students 4
FIGURE 2: A Typology of Boarding Home Parents 54
FIGURE I-1: Grade Distribution of Fairbanks Boarding Home  
  Program Students, 1971 82
FIGURE I-2: Growth in Scores of Anchorage Boarding Home Program  
  Students on the Vineland Social Maturity Test 83

[Alaskool Home]