A CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISON: RAPID SOCIO-CULTURAL CHANGE AND STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH

Ronald M. Wintrob

Abstract


The purpose of this paper is to compare the effects of rapid socio-cultural change on the role identity of two groups of adolescent students living in very different environments, but sharing certain characteristics. The two groups of students are Liberians of tribal origin (West Africa), and Cree Indians of north-central Quebec (Canada). They share the following characteristics: 1) their environments are undergoing rapid economic development with concomitant social and cultural changes; 2) they are key participants in the inter-generational conflict of values that has accompanied the diminishing importance of the extended family and traditional tribal authority structure; and 3) education has become a central focus of the inter-generational conflict, being highly valued by youth and negatively or ambivalently regarded by "traditional" adults of the tribe. Data is drawn from the author's experience as director of mental health services in Liberia (1964-66) and from his recent participation in interdisciplinary research among the Quebec Cree lndians of the Waswanipi and Mistassini bands.

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