A Cross-Cultural Study of Anxiety among Chinese and Caucasian American University Students

By Xie, Dong; Leong, Frederick T. L. | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, January 2008 | Go to article overview

A Cross-Cultural Study of Anxiety among Chinese and Caucasian American University Students


Xie, Dong, Leong, Frederick T. L., Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


This study investigated the cross-cultural differences on state, trait, and social anxiety between Chinese and Caucasian American university students. Chinese students reported higher levels of social anxiety than did Caucasian American students. Correlations between trait and state anxiety were compared in light of the trait model of cross-cultural psychology. Implications for multicultural counseling are discussed.

Este estudio investigo las diferencias interculturales en cuanto a estado, rasgo y ansiedad social entre alumnos universitarios Chinos y Americanos Caucasicos. Los alumnos Chinos comunicaron niveles mas altos de ansiedad social que los alumnos Americanos Caucasicos. Se compararon las correlaciones entre rasgo y estado de ansiedad a la luz del modelo de rasgo de la psicologia intercultural. Se discuten las implicaciones para la consejeria multicultural.

Anxiety is one of the most prevalent psychological issues among university students. However, the understanding of anxiety has lagged behind its prevalence. Whereas anxiety may be a universal emotion, cultural beliefs and practices still have important influences on experiences and manifestations of anxiety (Kirmayer, Young, & Hayton, 199B) and, subsequently, on development, diagnosis, and treatment of anxiety disorders (Scott, Eng, & Heimberg, 2002). However, there has been a lack of knowledge and understanding about how anxiety develops and is experienced differently across various cultures and how treatments can be more culturally responsive for clients with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

A review of the existing limited literature involving Chinese participants in research studies revealed that Chinese tended to be more anxious than Americans (Chataway & Berry, 1989; Lin, Endler, & Kocovski, 2001; Sun, 1968). Some epidemiological surveys on prevalence of mental disorders also indicated that Chinese reported higher anxiety levels than did Americans (e.g., Chen, 1996). Similarly, cross-cultural studies involving Asian Americans indicated that Asian Americans tended to report higher degrees of anxiety than their Caucasian American counterparts (Okazaki, 1997, 2000; D. W. Sue, Ino, & Sue, 1983; D. W. Sue, Sue, & Ino, 1990). However, one inherent limitation of these studies was their lack of attention to the ethnic heterogeneity of Asian Americans. Moreover, the Asian American samples in these studies were often less culturally

different from Caucasian Americans than they were from Asians living outside of the United States. Thus the previous Asian ethnic minority comparisons may not have been powerful enough to identify how culture may influence the experience and report of anxiety in more subtle ways.

Most previous cross-cultural studies only focused on one type of anxiety (e.g., Klopf & Cambra, 1980) or did not specify what type of anxiety was measured (e.g., Sun, 1968). It is unclear whether a difference observed for one type of anxiety can be observed for other types of anxiety, or whether the magnitude of a difference may vary across different types of anxiety. Anxiety can be classified based on the stimuli or on the situations that are causes of anxiety. Among these types of anxiety, social anxiety was defined as "anxiety resulting from the prospect or presence of interpersonal evaluation in real or imagined social settings" (Schlenker & Leary, 1982, p. 642). Social anxiety is characterized by fear associated with social situations in which one might be viewed or scrutinized by others. Relatively few studies have specifically addressed the cross-cultural differences between Chinese participants and those from other cultures in experiencing social anxiety. FurtherInore, findings from these limited studies tended to be mixed. For example, Klopf and Cambra found no significant difference between Chinese and Western participants in apprehension about speaking. However, using the same measure of apprehension about speaking as Klopf and Cambra, Y. …

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