Category: Cultural Diversity / Vulnerable Populations
Purpose. Explanatory styles influence the interpretation of stressful life events with respect to their cause. Negative explanatory styles (NES) place the cause of stressful events as self-generated, enduring, and pervasive. Such negative causal attributions worsen the adverse effects of stress and are a strong risk factor for depression. The few cross-cultural studies that examine this topic showed that NES are a more pernicious risk factor for depression among individuals hailing from a collectivistic culture as compared to those of individualistic cultures (Anderson, 1999). However, there is some evidence that NES serves as a protective role for Arab-Americans who hold more traditional values relative to their acculturated peers and non-Arabs (Najjar, Gaynier & Yaroslavsky, 2015). The present study sought to test whether cultural differences and effects acculturation can be replicated in an independent sample, and to evaluate the proximal associations between NES, stress, and negative mood in the daily lives of Arab and non-Arab participants. We hypothesized that 1) the protective effects of NES in the association between stress and depression symptoms will only be present for Arabs who hold traditional values, and 2) these effects will be reflected in the relationship between momentary stress and negative mood in the context of participants’ daily lives.
Methods. Arab (n= 38) and non-Arab (n= 58) participants (69% female, Mage= 23.53 years, SD = 8.01) completed self-report measures of NES, life event stress, depressive symptoms, and acculturation surveys, as well as a 7-day ecological momentary assessment protocol during which momentary ratings of stress and negative affect were measured 5 times daily via participants’ cell phones.
Results. We failed to replicate the results of Najjar et al., (2015). Contrary to expectation, Arabs and non-Arabs did not differ in their levels NES, Arab M = 4.44, SD = .69, Non-Arabs M = 4.37, SD = .90, NES, t(83) = 4.00, p = .08. Further, NES do not significantly influence the effects of self-reported life event stress to predict depression symptoms between individuals of Arab and non-Arab descent. While NES predicted higher negative affect during periods when momentary stress increased relative to participants’ average stress levels (b=.42, p = .03), this effect did not vary across the two cultural groups.
Conclusion. Contrary to expectation, our findings fail to show cultural differences in the relationship between stress, NES, and depression symptoms and negative affect. While these results may reflect cross-cultural parallels in risk associated with NES and stress, they may also reflect a high level of acculturation in the Arab sample. Future studies that examine these relationships among individuals within their native cultures would do much to clarify the universality of known depression risk factors.