The Impact of Culture on Group Behavior: A Comparison of Three Ethnic Groups. (Research)

Article excerpt

Multicultural counseling has become an important discipline and a primary source for explaining human development and functioning (Lee, 1997; Pedersen, 1991); therefore, cultural differences should be actively considered in mental health interventions. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of culture on group behavior and on outcomes. Specifically, the study compared self-disclosure, group interaction, and outcomes in counseling groups for Arab (Moslem and Druze) and Jewish adolescents in Israel.

MULTICULTURALISM IN THE ISRAELI CONTEXT

Arabs in Israel encompass several ethnic groups, among which Moslems and Druze are examined in the present study. Both groups share a basic Arab culture characterized as collectivist and authoritarian (Dwairy, 1998). Religion, tradition, and family are central components in this culture (Barakat, 1993; Dwairy, 1998; Jackson, 1997). Accordingly, social relationships are built on duty and faithfulness to family and friends rather than on self-needs. The individual is dependent on his or her family at large (Nydell, 1987), and the family's reputation depends on the individual member's behavior. The concepts of self-esteem and respect are interdependent in Arab families, which operate as close units--cohesive, loving, and warm, but at the same time suppressing personal feelings, opinions, experiences, and needs. As a result, the Arab individual typically avoids overt emotional expression (El-Rufaie & Absood, 1993). The need to conform to collective norms has led to "pleasing" as a major coping mechanism (Griefat & Katriel, 1989).

Within this common Arab culture, there are cultural variations between groups, depending on their degree of acculturation (Lee, 1997). Dwairy (1998) has identified three major groups among Arabs: traditional, bicultural, and Westernized. Traditional Arab identity is the common cultural identity of Arabs in rural areas, where people live with traditional collectivist values and norms within their extended families and social life. Bicultural identity is common among middle-class, educated Arabs, but even in this category Westernization is evident, mainly in the emphasis on materialistic aspects of living rather than on their social relationships (Al-Sabaie, 1989). The Westernized group is usually composed of Arabs who immigrated to Western countries.

The major difference between Moslems and Druze is the level of acculturation. Close to 1 million Moslems live in Israel, and most of them may be considered bicultural. The Druze, in contrast, numbering about 94,000 in Israel, are known as an ethnic group that is furthest removed from the mainstream lifestyle in Israel and considered to have the greatest solidarity in the Middle East. They differ from the Moslems in their religion, ethnicity, geography, and political stands. They are a minority in several Arab countries in the Middle East, including Israel, and believe that keeping up with their tradition is the basis for their survival (Dana, 1998). Therefore, they are very strict in their socialization of the young generation (Phalet & Claeys, 1993).

The differences between Arab (Moslem, Druze) and Western cultures are reflected also in Arab attitudes toward counseling. Arabs tend to believe in external natural factors or supernatural factors as causes for pathology (Timimi, 1995). On the whole, only extreme cases of pathology are treated, in an attempt to avoid stigmatizing, and Arabs wait a longer time before seeking help (Dwairy, 1998; Okasha, 1993). When they do pursue counseling, they expect it to be direct, to be short-term, and to offer advice. The traditional focus on verbal exchange and insight is often experienced as intrusive. Therefore, outreach counseling and short-term, goal-oriented, systematic eclecticism is offered for counseling Arabs (Budman, Lipson, & Meleis, 1992; Dwairy, 1998). Yet, owing in part to social oppression, social change, and family transformation, Arabs tend to display high levels of psychosocial disorders (Ibrahim & Ibrahim, 1993; Okasha, 1993). …