Differentiation of self and trait anxiety: A cross‐cultural perspective

Ora Peleg, Caterina Messerschmidt‐Grandi
Published Online:
05 Oct 2018
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 54 Issue 6

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Cultural differences are likely to affect the ability to deal with anxiety. We investigated this issue among four cultural groups—Germans and Italians (Europeans living in South Tyrol, Italy), Jews and Arabs (Israelis)—in terms of their levels of differentiation of self, trait anxiety and somatic symptoms. We also examined the relationship of differentiation of self to trait anxiety and somatic symptoms. The sample consisted of 824 students: 387 Israelis (mean age 23.6) and 437 Europeans (mean age 22.3). Israeli participants reported lower levels of trait anxiety than European students. Jewish students reported lower trait anxiety than Arab students (mean difference = −.14, p < .009), while there was no difference between German and Italian students (mean difference = .03, p > .99). Jews reported a significantly lower level of emotional cutoff than Arabs (mean difference = −.45, p < .001), and Germans reported a significantly lower level of emotional reactivity than Italians (mean difference = .29, p < .001). Emotional reactivity and I‐position predicted all participants' trait anxiety. On the whole, results point to the importance of examining differentiation of self when trying to reduce trait anxiety, as well as some important cultural differences.

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