Effects of individual differences, society, and culture on youth-rated problems and strengths in 38 societies

Masha Y. Ivanova*, Thomas M. Achenbach, Lori Turner, Fredrik Almqvist, Ivan Begovac, Niels Bilenberg, Hector Bird, Anders G. Broberg, Mery A. Córdova Calderón, Myriam Chahed, Hoang Minh Dang, Anca Dobrean, Mandred Döpfner, Nese Erol, Maria Forns, Halldór S. Guðmundsson, Helga Hannesdóttir, Nohelia Hewitt-Ramirez, Yasuko Kanbayashi, Suyen KarkiHans M. Koot, Michael C. Lambert, Patrick Leung, Dorcas N. Magai, Alfio Maggiolini, Christa Winkler Metzke, Asghar Minaei, Marina Monzani da Rocha, Paulo A.S. Moreira, Mesfin S. Mulatu, Torunn Stene Nøvik, Kyung Ja Oh, Djaouida Petot, Jean Michel Petot, Cecilia Pisa, Rolando Pomalima, Alexandra Roussos, Vlasta Rudan, Michael G. Sawyer, Mimoza Shahini, Zeynep Simsek, Hans Christoph Steinhausen, Frank C. Verhulst, Sheila Weintraub, Bahr Weiss, Tomasz Wolanczyk, Eugene Yuqing Zhang, Nelly Zilber, Rita Žukauskienė

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Clinicians increasingly serve youths from societal/cultural backgrounds different from their own. This raises questions about how to interpret what such youths report. Rescorla et al. (2019, European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 28, 1107) found that much more variance in 72,493 parents’ ratings of their offspring’s mental health problems was accounted for by individual differences than by societal or cultural differences. Although parents’ reports are essential for clinical assessment of their offspring, they reflect parents’ perceptions of the offspring. Consequently, clinical assessment also requires self-reports from the offspring themselves. To test effects of individual differences, society, and culture on youths’ self-ratings of their problems and strengths, we analyzed Youth Self-Report (YSR) scores for 39,849 11–17 year olds in 38 societies. Methods: Indigenous researchers obtained YSR self-ratings from population samples of youths in 38 societies representing 10 culture cluster identified in the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavioral Effectiveness study. Hierarchical linear modeling of scores on 17 problem scales and one strengths scale estimated the percent of variance accounted for by individual differences (including measurement error), society, and culture cluster. ANOVAs tested age and gender effects. Results: Averaged across the 17 problem scales, individual differences accounted for 92.5% of variance, societal differences 6.0%, and cultural differences 1.5%. For strengths, individual differences accounted for 83.4% of variance, societal differences 10.1%, and cultural differences 6.5%. Age and gender had very small effects. Conclusions: Like parents’ ratings, youths’ self-ratings of problems were affected much more by individual differences than societal/cultural differences. Most variance in self-rated strengths also reflected individual differences, but societal/cultural effects were larger than for problems, suggesting greater influence of social desirability. The clinical significance of individual differences in youths’ self-reports should thus not be minimized by societal/cultural differences, which—while important—can be taken into account with appropriate norms, as can gender and age differences.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)1297-1307
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Individual differences
  • multicultural
  • psychopathology
  • strengths
  • Youth Self-Report
  • Parents/psychology
  • Humans
  • Self Report
  • Adolescent
  • Individuality
  • Child


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