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Cross Cultural Research

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Cross Cultural Research

There are many different cultures scattered across the world, and each culture has its own way of operating, down to their customs, social and behavioural rules, and what is considered the norm for them. This includes their moral values. An issue with a lot of early research is its generalisability. A lot of the older studies tended to focus on white, adult men from western culture. Even children were usually studied in western culture. Issues arose when these findings were generalised to include everyone, not just the people belonging to the culture being studied.

Cross-cultural research is typically carried out in psychology to identify if a finding that is found based on testing in one culture applies to another. When similar results are found across cultures the psychological variable measured can be considered generalisable. This means that the psychological variable or research design factors in cross-cultural differences.

Cross-cultural research is a systematic study that investigates cultural differences of behaviour and phenomenon.

Cross-Cultural Research, World Culture  ,StudySmarterPins dropped on the world, flaticon.com/amonrat rungreangfangsai

Society and Cross-cultural Research

There are clear distinctions that are observable between Western and Eastern societies

  • Western society is also known as an individualistic society. It is characterised by a focus on individual rights and own happiness. Typical behaviours of people in this society are that they voice their opinion, are independent and tend to do things in their way.
  • Eastern society is also known as a collectivist society. It is characterised by a focus on the superiority of the collective community and emphasises social support. Typical behaviours within collecting society are that they usually conform to societal rules, have social harmony so they are less likely to be openly aggressive towards others. They typically are reserved and hold traditional views.

As the two societies have different goals and different attitudes and beliefs of appropriate behaviour. The two cultures may have contrasting opinions of what is dysfunctional behaviour. Therefore, when assessing mental health there may be differences. Cross-cultural research can be carried out to identify if there are differences between individualistic and collectivist societies.

In terms of psychological research, there are clear differences between the characteristics of the two types of society. Therefore, psychological findings found from one society may not be applicable or generalisable to the other. This is problematic as the findings may be used to understand things such as the effectiveness of an intervention. If the results are over-generalised people may receive ineffective treatment.

Carrying out cross-cultural research allows researchers to identify if findings apply to the target/wider population.

Types of cross-cultural research

There are three main types of cross-cultural research, these are:

  1. Psychological method validation of cross-cultural research
    • This type of cross-cultural research is typically used when researchers want to identify if psychological measures/ tests are applicable and generalisable to the population. For instance, if it takes into account cultural differences

      Research by Mandy, Charman, Puura and Skuse (2014) applied the DSM-5 (the manual that is used for diagnosis of mental illnesses in the UK) to see if it takes into account the difference between British and Finnish people. The study found that there may be cross-cultural variability in people with milder autistic characteristics. This highlights the importance of cross-cultural research as it shows that well-established measures may not apply to the entire population. This suggests that there may be a bias for instance not considering cross-cultural differences in the manual.

      If similar results are found across cultures then it can be assumed that the measures are:

      • Valid: measuring what it is supposed to measure
      • Reliable: all of the items/ questions/ scales are consistent
  2. Indigenous cultural studies

    This is the study of a minority ethnic group who live in their native location.

    These individuals tend to have their rituals and traditions, language and research have also found developmental differences. This type of research can take the form of cross-cultural research if the results of indigenous populations are compared to people from other countries.The purpose of this research could be to identify the similarities and differences between populations.

    In some minority populations in Papua New Guinea, Turkey and the Dominican Republic it has been found that some children identified as female at birth at the age of 12 (after the onset of puberty) started to develop male genitalia. This highlights the importance of cross-cultural research as it shows that research could be done to identify how differences between nature and nurture factors between cultures could lead to this type of intersexuality.

  3. Cross-cultural comparisons
    • This is research that compares the findings of two or more countries. This research design can be used to find the similarities and differences across cultures or, identify if findings support/disprove hypotheses in different cultures. Usually, this is used when we're trying to investigate if one culture will have significantly different (lower or higher) scores compared to another.

      A cross-cultural research example that takes a comparative approach is Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg's (1988) study. This study compares the prevalence of attachment styles across eight countries.

Cross- cultural research, Cultural Connections Research, StudySmarterCultural connections, flaticon.com/Becris

Cross-cultural research methodologies

The cross-cultural methodology consists of the following steps:

  • Identifying the research area that will be investigated and forming a hypothesis
  • Choosing the appropriate cross-cultural design that will be used:
    • If the researcher aims to compare results across cultures then a cross-cultural comparison methodology would be used
    • If the researcher is investigating indigenous populations then an indigenous cultural study would be done
    • If researchers are investigating if a psychological test takes into account cultural differences then a psychological method validation cross-cultural research would be carried out to identify if the research will collect their data (primary data) or use previously published results (secondary data)
  • Carry out the research
  • Carry out the analysis and report the results

    The results will emphasise analyses of cross-cultural differences however, intra-cultural (differences within cultures may also be investigated.

Cross-cultural research examples

Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg's (1988) study is a cross-cultural research example. The study aimed to identify cross-cultural differences in attachment styles. Therefore, it is a cross-cultural comparisons research example.

Procedure

The researchers carried out cross-cultural research. The study used a meta-analysis method

A meta-analysis is a research method that analyses the results from several published studies to form a conclusion of whether the data supports or negates the proposed hypothesis.

The study collected data from several published research from different countries. The researchers used 32 studies from eight countries (individualistic and collectivist countries)

  • The researcher's inclusion criteria for studies that would be used were:
    • Used the strange situation

      The strange situation was a procedure that Ainsworth designed to identify attachment styles between infants and caregivers. This is determined by how the infant responds to separation and reunion from their caregiver. In addition, to how the infant behaves when a stranger is present.

    • Only investigated mother-infant attachments
    • Used the classification system that Ainsworth described in her strange situation study: Insecure avoidant (type A), Secure (type B) and insecure ambivalent (type C).
  • The meta-analysis calculated the average percentage scores of each of the attachment styles that Ainsworth proposed in her Strange situation study. This was calculated for each of the countries that Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg were investigating.

Results

The results of the cross-cultural research showed that:

  • Secure attachments were the most common attachment styles in every country
  • Individualistic cultures had a higher mean score of insecure-avoidant attachments than collectivist cultures
  • Collectivist cultures had a higher mean score of insecure-ambivalent attachments than individualistic cultures

Based on the findings the researchers could identify that differences in how children are raised can affect the type of attachment style that is developed.

There are differences in how children are raised between individualistic and collectivist societies.

This suggests that when researching attachment it is important to consider cultural differences. For researchers to identify if results are generalisable to the entire population cross-cultural research should be carried out.

Despite cross-cultural differences in how children are raised the secure attachment style remains the most common. This suggests that there may be some universal principles that affect the type of attachment style that is developed.

What are the cross-cultural research strengths and weaknesses?

Let's discuss the cross-cultural research strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths of cross-cultural research

The strengths of cross-cultural research are:

  • Cross-cultural research is important because it helps to reduce the bias that exists in the current psychology research. Some research may infer theories as universal. This can be supported if cross-cultural research establishes similar results across cultures
    • This is important because it allows researchers to identify if results are generalisable and if they can be applied to understand the population rather than a sub-group of the population.
  • Through cross-cultural research, researchers can identify to what extent culture influences behaviour and mental illnesses.
  • Allows researchers to identify if tools used to measure things such as mental illnesses or systems created for diagnosis of mental illnesses are acceptable to use in other countries. If this is not the case then the systems being used may need to be revised.

Problems with cross-cultural research

The problems with cross-cultural research are:

  • Cross-cultural research is sensitive
    • If the researcher uses 20 American studies and 3 studies from China, the results are more likely to be reflective of the American population than the Chinese population. Therefore, the cross-cultural research will not provide generalisable results. It needs to equally use different cultures to gain the status of being generalisable.
  • If the researcher chooses a cross-cultural methodology that requires them to independently collect data then this can be costly and time-consuming.
  • As some cross-cultural research methodologies rely on secondary data (findings from previously published studies) the validity and findings from these studies can affect the results of the cross-cultural research.
  • It can be a difficult process to carry out for instance tools may not be easily available in other countries or, there may be language barriers. Additionally, the researchers require a large sample to find meaningful results.
  • Results may be misinterpreted due to the above issues, and suffer from being ethnocentric.
  • Smith and Bond (1988) highlighted issues with using similar methodologies across cultures. One culture may find a specific too, reference, or way of behaving familiar and acceptable, whilst another may not have come across it before, so using the same methodology to increase reliability and validity may actually cause issues with validity.

Cross-Cultural Research - Key takeaways

  • Cross-cultural research is a systematic study that investigates cultural differences in behaviour and phenomenon.
  • There are clear distinctions that are observable between Western and Eastern societies. The purpose of cross-cultural research is to identify if research findings are similar when carried out in different countries. If similar results are found then the study can be considered to take into account cultural differences and is generalisable to the population.
  • There are three types of cross-cultural research:
    1. Psychological method validation of cross-cultural research
    2. Indigenous cultural studies
    3. Cross-cultural comparisons
  • A cross-cultural research example of this is Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg's (1988) study.
  • The strengths of cross-cultural research are it can help reduce existing bias, especially in the current research and it can be used to identify to what extent culture influences behaviour and mental illnesses. Cross-cultural research allows researchers to identify if tools used to measure things such as mental illnesses or systems created for diagnosis of mental illnesses are acceptable to use in other countries.
  • The problems with cross-cultural research are researchers need to ensure that a representative sample of the population is recruited, it can be time-consuming and expensive. In addition, it can be difficult to carry out for example there may be language barriers or difficulty accessing the required equipment. Using the same methodologies in different cultures may actually reduce validity if the methodology has different meanings for different cultures.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cross Cultural Research

The cross-cultural methodology that researchers may take is:

  1. Identify the research area that will be investigated and form a hypothesis 
  2. Choose the appropriate cross-cultural design that will be used
  3. Identify if the research will collect their own data (primary data) or use previously published results (secondary data)
  4. Carry out the research
  5. The last step is to complete the analysis and report the results 


Cross-cultural research is a systematic study that investigates cultural differences of behaviour and phenomenon.

The benefits of cross-cultural research are: 

  • it can help reduce existing bias, especially in the current research
  • it can be used to identify to what extent culture influences behaviour and mental illnesses
  • cross-cultural research allows researchers to identify if tools used to measure things such as mental illnesses or systems created for diagnosis of mental illnesses are acceptable to use in other countries.

Using the same methodologies in different cultures may actually reduce validity if the methodology has different meanings for different cultures.  Another problem with cross-cultural research is that it can be a difficult process to carry out, for instance, tools may not be easily available in other countries or there may be language barriers. Additionally, the researchers require a large sample to find meaningful results.

An example of cross-cultural research in psychology is Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg's 1988 study. The aim of the study was to see cross-cultural differences in attachment styles. 

Final Cross Cultural Research Quiz

Question

What is the definition of cross-cultural research? 

Show answer

Answer

Cross-cultural research is a systematic study that investigates cultural differences of behaviour and phenomenon.

Show question

Question

What does cross-cultural research allow researchers to identify in terms of generalisability? 

Show answer

Answer

Carrying out cross-cultural research allows researchers to identify if findings are applicable to the target/ wider population. 

Show question

Question

What type of society are people who voice their opinion, are independent and have a tendency to do things in their own way likely to be from?

Show answer

Answer

Individualistic society

Show question

Question

Why should research take into consideration differences between collectivist and individualistic cultures? 

Show answer

Answer

As the two societies have different goals and different attitudes and beliefs of appropriate behaviour. The two cultures may have contrasting opinions of what is dysfunctional behaviour. Therefore, when assessing mental health there may be differences. 

Show question

Question

What are the three main types of cross-cultural research?

Show answer

Answer

The different types of cross-cultural research are:

  1. Psychological method validation cross-cultural research 
  2. Indigenous cultural studies
  3. Cross-cultural comparisons

Show question

Question

What type of cross-cultural research be used to assess differences between native minorities and the general population? 

Show answer

Answer

Psychological method validation cross-cultural research

Show question

Question

What type of cross-cultural research did Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988) carry out? 

Show answer

Answer

Cross-cultural comparisons

Show question

Question

What is the cross-cultural methodology used in psychology? 

Show answer

Answer

The cross-cultural methodology that researchers may take is:

  1. Identify the research area that will be investigated and form a hypothesis 
  2. Choose the appropriate cross-cultural design that will be used
  3. Identify if the research will collect their own data (primary data) or use previously published results (secondary data)
  4. Carry out the research
  5. The last step is to complete the analysis and report the results 

Show question

Question

Why did Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988) use a cross-cultural methodology?

Show answer

Answer

Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg used a cross-cultural methodology because:

  • it allowed the researchers to identify how differences in how children are raised can affect the type of attachment style that is developed

Show question

Question

What did Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988) find about cultural differences in terms of secure attachments styles? 

Show answer

Answer

Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988) found that despite cross-cultural differences in how children are raised the secure attachment style remains the most common. This suggests that there may be some universal principles that affect the type of attachment style that is developed. 

Show question

Question

What are the benefits of cross-cultural research?


Show answer

Answer

The benefits of cross-cultural research are: 

  • it can help reduce existing bias, especially in the current research
  • it can be used to identify to what extent culture influences behaviour and mental illnesses
  • cross-cultural research allows researchers to identify if tools used to measure things such as mental illnesses or systems created for diagnosis of mental illnesses are acceptable to use in other countries.

Show question

Question

What are the problems with cross-cultural research? 

Show answer

Answer

The problems with cross-cultural research are:

  • the research is sensitive, this means that researchers need to ensure that the sample is representative 
  • cross-cultural research that uses primary data can be time-consuming and expensive to carry out 
  • cross-cultural research that relies on secondary data may include studies that have low reliability or validity 
  • it can be difficult to carry out cross-cultural research such as due to language barriers 

Show question

Question

What is an issue if a cross-cultural study uses data from 20 American studies and 3 Chinese studies? 

Show answer

Answer

If a researcher uses 20 American studies and 3 studies from China. The results are more likely to be reflective of the American population than the Chinese population. Therefore, the cross-cultural research will not provide generalisable results.

Show question

Question

Does cross-cultural research only use primary data? 

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Answer

Yes 

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