Adverse Political Events and Psychological Adjustment: Two Cross-Cultural Studies

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Abstract

Objective

The life events model was extended to the political arena to enable the comparison of children's adjustment reactions to political stress. The cross-cultural impact of adverse political events on psychological adjustment was examined for two closely matched research samples, Arab and Jewish children and Palestinian and Israeli children.

Method

All children completed the Political Life Events scale and the Brief Symptom Inventory in their home languages.

Results

The hypothesis of a linear relation between adverse events and psychological distress was not confirmed in both studies. In study 1, a direct relation emerged for both Jewish and Arab Israeli children. However, in study 2, when separated by nationality, results revealed opposite trends for each nation. For Israelis there was a linear relation, but for Palestinians there was a consistent inverse relation between increased severity of political life events exposure and distress, both for the global index and for specific symptomatology.

Conclusion

It is proposed that these cross-cultural results stem from differential mediating coping mechanisms, specifically passive versus active strategies, which intervene between the stressor-adjustment link. The need to address short- and long-term consequences of political stress on children's mental health is discussed. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 1998, 37(10):1058–1069.

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