Cross cultural differences in Adolescent adjustment between Australia and France

  • Camille Rault

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis investigated whether culture played a role in human development, specificallyduring adolescence, and compared Australian and French individuals. A comprehensive literature review indicated that this was one of the first investigations to have compared youth from France and Australia, two Western countries considered to have similar values, wealth, political organisation, and social orientation. While the majority of cross-cultural research tend to focus on comparing Eastern to Western countries, the advantage of using countries that share similarities allowed for cultural subtleties to be studied, therefore preventing traditional and perhaps simplistic views of an East and West dichotomy. Identifying parts of cultures that positively influence adolescent development provided guidance for the initiation of well-being programs for adolescents. Each culture offers positive attributes that could be modelled by others in order to foster positive adolescent development.

Adolescence presents a number of unique features in the development of individuals (Flamm & Grolnick, 2013), characterised by physical changes typically between the age of ten and 19 (Lehmiller, 2017). Adjusting to this developing body may lead to changes in confidence, identity, and a desire for feelings of worthiness (Erikson, 1963; Forbes & Dahl, 2010). On the social front, adolescents step out of the shadows of their parents and begin forming more complex relationships with peers (Steinberg & Morris, 2001). As peer interactions become more common and increasingly valued, adolescent social development is shaped by self-consciousness, the desire to belong, and sensitivity to rejection, (Forbes & Dahl, 2010; Steinberg & Morris, 2001). As adolescents become more independent, there is an increased autonomy and unsupervised interaction with peers, exposing them to ambiguous and potentially risky situations. For adolescents, this may be problematic, as their
lack of experience may result in poor use of coping strategies that may negatively affect adolescent well-being (Patterson & McCubbin, 1987). Consequently, this thesis measured both coping and well-being in order to identify how the environment influenced these important aspects of adolescents’
From Bronfenbrenner’s perspective, cultural differences have a substantial impact on adolescent identity. The Ecological System Theory (1977) served as a background for this research, and elements of the different systems were examined. Culture is viewed as a socially interactive process, comprising shared activities and shared meaning (Greenfield, Keller, Fuligni, & Maynard, 2003). Values and norms provide guidelines on acceptable, or unacceptable attitudes and behaviours.
Many authors have noted the lack of a multidimensional instrument that measured subjective well-being among adolescents as a major limitation in the investigation of adolescent well-being (Gilligan & Huebner, 2002; Huebner, 1995; Konu & Lintonen 2006; Park et al., 2004; Seligson et al., 2003; Snyder & Lopez, 2007). The creation of a multidimensional measure of adolescent subjective well-being with adequate domain coverage and utility in cross-cultural settings was undertaken as part of the current dissertation. The instrument creation followed a thorough procedure to ensure crossculturally usability in both France and Australia. Testing of the final instrument was conducted in the two countries of interest and produced eight factors representing life domains contributing to wellbeing. Despite similarities, the composition of these factors varied slightly and was suggestive of the instrument’s sensitivity to cultural differences. This research also examined adolescent coping in these two countries, using an established measure of adolescent coping, and highlighted the different approaches taken by the young individuals according to their cultural setting. This dissertation provided avenues for future research to develop well-being programs and promote positive coping strategies.
Date of Award11 Jun 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMark Bahr (Supervisor) & Richard Hicks (Supervisor)

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