Due to differences in cultural traditions and social standards, people from various countries pursue different behaviour strategies in difficult situations. For example, some become introverted, while others seek other people’s help. Elena Chebotareva, a psychologist from HSE, compared the coping strategies used by French and Russian students, as well as their impact on psychological well-being.
The study involved students from two ethnic groups, Russian and French, 70 participants each (35 female and 35 male students), aged 18 to 25. At first, the respondents were asked to evaluate 84 statements from a psychological well-being questionnaire, on a 6-point scale. Then, they filled in a ‘Coping Methods Questionnaire,’ which identify their key coping strategies.
Coping with Stress
The analysis of the results demonstrated that the first thing French students look for when dealing with stress is social support. They are willing to balance emotional stress with the help of other people, as well as share their problems. They also tend to view the situation from a positive perspective, try to distance themselves from the problem, and confront whatever might be bothering them. On the one hand, this may lead to emotional outbursts. On the other hand, when emotional tension becomes intolerable, young people try to take some distance from the situation and not get too emotionally involved in it.
Russian students’ priorities were problem-avoiding and decision-planning strategies. In comparison with their French peers, Russian students are more willing to take responsibility for a difficult situation. Elena Chebotareva explained this by the high level of self-criticism, which is characteristic of the Russian mentality.
‘Due to their psychological characteristics, Russian students are more willing to recognize the correlation between their behaviour and its consequences, as well as look for the reasons for current problems in themselves and their qualities,’ the author wrote. In contrast, French students were less inclined to look for the reasons for their problems.
According to the researcher, there was a tendency in the Russian students’ answers to avoid difficult situations in general. This is presumable due to the fear of becoming responsible for problems that might arise.
In terms of psychological well-being, French students are much more satisfied with their lives than their Russian peers. The Russian respondents did not feel they are able to influence external circumstances, experience problems in organizing their everyday life, and tend to be passive. This likely reflects these students’ social status in Russia, the psychologist noted.
On the other hand, students of both nationalities have quite high levels of independence in terms of decision-making.
The French students were less satisfied with their personal development, acquiring new experiences, and self-fulfillment; they were not sure their plans would be realized and not quite aware of their goals. On the contrary, the Russian respondents’ answers demonstrate their satisfaction with their opportunities for personal growth and self-fulfillment. The author assumed that the difference in their views on these spheres of life may be owing to the specifics of the national education systems in the two countries.
In addition, the study concluded that French respondents are more positive towards other people than their Russian peers are, and value the quality of communication with other persons is placed much higher. The French were also more inclined to accept themselves as they are, with all their virtues and shortcomings, than their Russian counterparts. Furthermore, they feel more confident in managing their own environment.
Elena Chebotareva compared the results of the two questionnaires and identified the coping strategies that don’t reduce one’s level of satisfaction with life.
For French students, planning how to solve a problem turned out to be an effective coping strategy. According to the analysis, rational consideration of a complex situation and a reasonable search for its solutions is the only method that can positively impact the psychological comfort of French students. Other strategies tended to be ineffective due to their emotional load.
For Russian students, coping strategies were less related to psychological well-being than for their French counterparts. This can be explained by the fact that they see their personal impact on the environment as a rather low. In this context, the most effective strategy was re-evaluation of a given situation, in other words, reviewing a problem from a positive perspective. In general, this approach doesn’t add much to one’s confidence in being able to control the situation. Nevertheless, this can positively impact other aspects of life, such as awareness of one’s goals and self-perception.