Despite the fact that psychology and related fields generally have conceptualized themselves as science of universal human behavior, for the most part they have developed as Euro-American science of Euro-American behavior. Failure to consider more fully potential effects of cultural differences on human behavior and emotion has had a number of consequences, the foremost of which probably is that the field has reached conclusions about constructs being related as main effects when in fact they may be related via more complex interactive relations involving cultural processes. The overall purpose of the proposed project is to increase our understanding of how culture and cultural variation are related to human behavioral and emotional functioning, with a particular focus on what might be called the "stress - coping - symptom manifestation" system, with the ultimate goal of generating data that are useful for modifying or developing culturally informed psychosocial interventions. In the proposed project, cross-sectional questionnaire data will be obtained from 1000 Vietnamese and 1000 Vietnamese-American adolescents. Longitudinal interview data will be obtained from subsets of 500 of each of these groups, at three time points spaced three months apart. Data will focus on (a) stressful life events, (b) coping styles and strategies, (c) mental health symptoms, and (d) distal cultural as well as more proximal variables (e.g., collectivism vs. individualism;stigma associated with symptoms, respectively). Analyses will (a) determine the extent to which Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American adolescents differ cross-sectionally in regards to the life events they find stressful, the types of strategies that the adolescents use to cope with these stressful events, and the symptom manifestations (such as affective problems;somatization, conduct problems, etc.) that may occur when these coping attempts are not successful;(b) determine the extent to which cross-sectional group differences are related to cultural variables;(c) model longitudinal relations between life events, coping strategies, and symptom manifestations and determine the extent to which these relations are influenced by the cultural variables;(b) compare models the Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American adolescents to determine whether these relations differ across cultural groups and if they do, whether these differences are mediated by the cultural variables. Finally, results will be reviewed to identify potential factors relevant for developing culturally-informed interventions for Vietnamese- American, and ultimately Asian-American, adolescents.

Public Health Relevance

The present project focuses on increasing our understanding of how culture and cultural variation are related to mental health and mental illness symptomatology, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of mental health interventions for different subgroups within our population. It therefore is directly relevant to public health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Community Influences on Health Behavior (CIHB)
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Zehr, Julia L
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center
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United States
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