The Case for Measuring ‘Resilient Type’ Traits in Inuit Youth

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Summary. The Inuit communities in the Alaskan regions of Northern Canada suffer from colonialization issues, such as corrosion of collectivistic values of family relations. Inuit youth’s well-being is depending on their cultural environment. Mental health problems, substance misuse, and high suicide rates are significant concerns. Resilience as a strength based approach to adapt to adversity is sought to be better understood to design culturally sensitive and therefore effective interventions. A newly developed psychometric instrument, based on the Big Five, could help to further optimize the targeting of Inuit youth according to their differences in related individual traits tendencies.

Inuit Cultural Context and Adverse Situations

If it were known what individual differences in personality influence personal coping behavior, interventions could be directed towards those likely to be unable to handle stressful situations effectively (Waaktaar & Torgersen, 2010). Confronted with detrimental effects from colonialization and the western-style culturally insensitive approaches to deal with (Morris & Crooks, 2015), Canada’s Aboriginal Inuit population is suffering from adverse social, cultural, and economic developments (Ferrazzi & Krupa, 2016). Most harm is caused by the corrosion of collectivistic values of family relationships as they continue to define the cultural environment necessary for Inuit’s well-being (Kral, Salusky, Inuksuk, Angutimarik, & Tulugardjuk, 2014). The Inuit youth suicide rate is up to ten times higher than that of Canada overall, what the Inuit ascribe to the destruction of their native culture (Kral et al., 2014). Whereas the direct link between colonialization and suicide rates is disputed, mood disorders and substance misuse (e.g., because of family disruption [Dell et al., 2011]) was more clearly identified as one of the multiple causes for suicide (Chachamovich et al., 2013).

Enculturation is the way a person feels in accord with the spirit and culture of its community (Winterowd, Montgomery, Stumblingbear, Harless, & Hicks, 2008). It provides for the indigenous resiliency factors of spirituality and kinship (Montgomery-Andersen, & Borup, 2012) that are found to be preventive of the increased mental health issues such as low self-esteem and depression in Inuit youth (Snowshoe, Crooks, Tremblay, Craig, & Hinson, 2015). According to Kelly, Fitzgerald, and Dooley (2017), “resilience is a process reflecting positive adaptation in the face of adversity” (p. 1). The Inuit notion of resilience grounds on a wealth of cultural traditions, language, and engagement that have resisted all difficulties (Kirmayer, Dandeneau, Marshall, Phillips, & Williamson, 2011).

Big Five / Five-Factor Model (FFM) of Personality Traits

While family and environment contribute to resiliency too (Kelly et al., 2017), individual differences as predictors of future outcomes are sought to be assessed. A suitably precise psychometric instrument should, at the same time, allow the integration of a broad range of criteria that are potentially important for the use in long-term community development (Morizot, 2014).  Supportive research evidence concentrates on a five-factor model (FFM) (Howell, & Zelenski, 2017) consisting of five mostly independent personality trait dimensions, i.e., extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and openness to experience (McCrea & Costa, 1987). Importantly, both individualist (such as the non-Aboriginal Canadian population) and collectivist (i.e., the Inuit) cultures reveal, albeit with different scores, the Big Five traits (Reese et al., 2014). The Big Five construct could even be linked to neurobiological explanations (Rojas & Widiger, 2014). The psycholexical grouping rationale of the FFM has been confirmed by theories of personality psychology (Strus, Cieciuch, & Rowinski, 2014), e.g., by demonstrating the validity of personality trait scores on isolated real-life outcomes (Woods & Hampson, 2005). The Big Five was found to be able to depict the concept of resiliency as a personality aspect as accurately as specific resiliency measurement tools (Waaktaar & Torgersen, 2010). Lazaridou and Beka (2015) report that a resilient personality is characterized by high scores on all Big Five dimensions, given neuroticism is reverse-coded.

Development of an Enhanced Individual Differences Measure

Short Big Five measures do somewhat redundantly focus imagination and abstract thinking and are not probing for other types of openness-facets such as ‘openness to cultural diversity’ (Morizot, 2014) as it is expected to be especially important also for the Inuit changing cultural and social context. Similarly, the five personality trait dimensions should be added further items that are expected to contribute to increased conceptual breadth (generally a weakness of short-form measures [Morizot, 2014]). For example, resilience is expected to include abilities to respond to (adverse) environment factors (Waaktaar & Torgersen, 2010). Emotion regulation is an expected aspect of Inuit youth resilience too (Shaw, 2016) and can be included in the ‘extraversion’ dimension, together with sensation seeking that is a possible facet indicative of substance abuse risk (Morizot, 2014).

 

References

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Dell, C. A., Seguin, M., Hopkins, C., Tempier, R., Mehl-Madrona, L., Dell, D., & … Mosier, K. (2011). From Benzos to Berries: Treatment Offered at an Aboriginal Youth Solvent Abuse Treatment Centre Relays the Importance of Culture. Canadian Journal Of Psychiatry, 56(2), 75-83.

Ferrazzi, P., & Krupa, T. (2016). ‘Symptoms of something all around us’: Mental health, Inuit culture, and criminal justice in Arctic communities in Nunavut, Canada. Social Science & Medicine, 165159-167. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.033

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About mathias sager

Welcome to the 'Happy Colorful Growth' way of life I am thinking and writing for happiness, painting colorfully, and enabling personal growth for all. If people can be touched at the heart level, peace will ensue. I value co-operative and humanitarian principles, economic and social equality, as well as environmental sustainability. Important personal characteristics are my broad international experience and progressive, egalitarian and global outlook, as well as my social commitment.
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