Recent research (Offer & Offer, 1975; Savin-Williams & Demo, 1984; Lackovic-Grgin & Dekovic, 1991; Offer & Schonert-Reichl, 1992; Kwok & Violato, 1993) has cast doubt on the traditional view that adolescence is a period of emotional upheaval. However, the fact remains that it is associated with significant biological, social-cultural, and psychological changes, and adolescents are faced with many developmental tasks and decisions. They have to plan for a vocation and modify their self-concepts, social life, and relationships with parents from those of a child to those of an adult (Leung, Salili, & Baber, 1986). Because of these changes, youths are vulnerable to emotional problems (Lackovic-Grgin & Dekovic, 1991). According to Harper and Marshall (1991), although serious behavioral problems are experienced by only a minority of adolescents, few pass through adolescence without exhibiting problems in at least some areas of their lives.
Variations in the types and seriousness of problems and concerns have been reported for adolescents in different cultures and also within the same culture (Lackovic-Grgin & Dekovic, 1991). Research has dealt with the relationship between such factors as culture and gender and adolescents' problems (Poole & Cooney, 1985, 1987; Leung et al., 1986; Isralowitz & Hong, 1990).
Cultural norms and expectations represent an important factor in the problems experienced by adolescents. For example, a comparison of adolescent problem disclosure in England and Ireland by Porteous (1985) found that Irish adolescents appeared to experience more problems than did their English counterparts. Irish adolescents were more concerned about boy-girl issues, placing emphasis on the importance of friendship and peer group issues. In contrast, the English adolescents showed greater opposition to authority and resentment over adult interference. In another comparative study, Poole and Cooney (1987) found that adolescents in Singapore showed more concern about work, education, and economic and political issues than did young Australians. The Australians were more concerned about environmental issues, leisure, lifestyle, and psychological matters. Leung et al. (1986) found that Hong Kong adolescents were more concerned about school performance and proper conduct than such problems as the pursuit of self-identity, independence, and heterosexual relationships. In a study of Canadian adolescents, Violato and Holden (1988) concluded that the main concerns of Canadian adolescents involved future and career; health, appearance, and drug use; personal or private self; and social self. In contrast, adolescents in Singapore considered the following most problematic: arguing with parents, receiving enough sex education, feeling good about one's self, worrying about suitable work, worrying about the future, and having difficulty accessing recreation facilities (Isralowitz & Hong, 1990).
That differences such as these exist is not unusual given the extent to which cultures vary with regard to values, behavioral norms, socialization, and customs. Belief systems also differ according to culture, affecting behavioral problems in adolescence. Thus, problems are defined, in part, by cultural norms and expectations, and variations in these may alter the emphases of adolescents' problems (Porteous, 1985).
The frequency with which adolescents report having problems and the types of problematic issues they report have also been found to be related to gender. A common finding (Clements & Oelke, 1967; Collins & Harper, 1974; Harper & Collins, 1975; Nicholson & Antill, 1981) has been that females experience significantly more problems than do males and that the types of problems they report differ. A study by Stark et al. (1989) revealed that the most problematic issues for females involved parents, followed by those related to boyfriends, friends, and school, whereas males more frequently cited problems with school, parents, friends, and girlfriends, in that order. …