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  • 标题:Expressed concerns of Yemen adolescents.
  • 作者:Alzubaidi, Abdulgawi ; Upton, Graham ; Baluch, Bahman
  • 期刊名称:Adolescence
  • 印刷版ISSN:0001-8449
  • 出版年度:1998
  • 期号:March
  • 语种:English
  • 出版社:Libra Publishers, Inc.
  • 关键词:Sex differences;Teenagers;Yemenis;Yemenites;Youth

Expressed concerns of Yemen adolescents.

Alzubaidi, Abdulgawi ; Upton, Graham ; Baluch, Bahman 等


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. Harper and Marshall (1991) found that females were more concerned with interpersonal relationships, personal adjustment, physical development, health, and family matters; males were more concerned with financial, educational, and vocational issues. In a study by Dubow et al. (1990), females more frequently reported physical problems, such as headaches, frequent colds, fatigue, and sleeping and visual problems, than did boys, and admitted to more psychological problems as evidenced by moodiness, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, and talk of suicide. Kwok and Violato (1993) found that females showed a higher level of concern with interpersonal relationships and personal appearance while males were more concerned with sexual feelings, the environment, popularity, and monetary matters.

These gender differences have commonly been interpreted as reflecting familial and societal attitudes, which orient females toward interpersonal, familial, and psychological matters, and orient males toward competitive, educational, financial, and vocational issues (Harper & Marshall, 1991). However, it has been argued (Fitzgerald & Crites, 1980; Harmon, 1981) that, as a result of the changing role of women in the work force, these differences may be changing. For example, a study by Porteous (1985) showed that females were more worried about employment than were males and suggested that this may be due to their perception that jobs for females are less available and less attractive than are those for males.


If adolescents' problems vary according to culture and gender, research that examines those relationships has obvious value - all the more so if such research is carried out in previously unexplored cultural contexts. The present study explored the issue of adolescents' problems with respect to gender and cultural factors in the Republic of Yemen. There has been no previous research on the problems and concerns of Yemeni adolescents, yet the nature of the country suggests that such an investigation could be a rich source of comparative data.

Yemen is relatively unknown in the West. It has an area of 536,869 square kilometers and is situated in the south of the Arabian Peninsula. It was formed in May 1990 by the amalgamation of the Yemen Arab Republic and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. According to the 1995 census, the population is about 16 million (Europa World Book, 1995). The language is Arabic. The population is largely homogeneous in terms of cultural values and religion, and less influenced by the materialism and social issues that one may observe in many larger and more diverse societies (Warner, 1994). The country's economy is basically agricultural and capitalist. Yemen is characterized by rapid population growth (it has one of the highest populations under 15 years of age), slow development, financial and economic constraints, and political instability. The unification of the country has added yet another dimension to this challenging picture (Warner, 1994).

The Yemeni educational system faces major problems. Inadequate preparation of teachers has resulted in an overemphasis on didactic and overly academic programs to the detriment of technical training, leading to high drop-out rates. Schools lack even the most basic educational resources (Warner, 1994). Large class sizes (classes exceeding 90 students are not uncommon in the lower grades) hinder the learning process, and may also discourage many from considering a career in education. The increase in the number of schools has been greater than the concern for the quality of instruction being provided. In addition, extreme centralization of decision making has led to a high degree of uniformity, both in the curriculum and in teaching styles, leaving little room for innovation or consideration of the individual student's or school's needs.

The government is trying to establish an educational system that is both modern and culturally Yemeni, stressing the principles of the Islamic religion. Thus, while the educational system follows that of many other countries (primary, secondary, and postsecondary), there are separate schools for males and females. Economic stringency and the strong influence of traditional attitudes and values have made change difficult.



Participants were 150 Yemeni adolescents (75 males and 75 females) chosen at random from grades 9, 10, and 11 in six schools (three for each sex) in the cities of Sana'a and Hodeidah. These cities were themselves chosen to represent the different topography (inland vs. coastal areas) and climatic regions (hot vs. cold) of the country. The age of the sample ranged from 13 to 17 years, with a mean of 15.5 (SD = 1.5) for males and 15.1 (SD = 1.9) for females.

Instrument and Procedure

A short version of the Mooney Problem Check List (MPCL; Mooney & Gordon, 1950), the Junior High School Form, was used. This questionnaire has been validated for use in Arabic cultures (Khairalla, 1981).

A pilot study aimed at determining the suitability of the test for use in Yemen was carried out using 7 secondary-school head teachers, 5 school inspectors, and 6 teachers with extensive experience. They were presented with the original Arabic version of the MPCL, which consists of 264 items, and asked whether they would be willing to administer it in their school. They said that the administration of the original scale would take up too much lesson time. They also suggested that some items, such as "wondering about what subjects to choose for the next term," may not apply. The scale was then given to another group (5 head teachers, 6 inspectors, 6 regular teachers, 4 adolescent males, 4 adolescent females, 6 parents, and 5 university lecturers in the psychology of education), who were asked to select the items that they thought reflected the problems and concerns of Yemeni adolescents at the present time. They were also asked to comment on the comprehensibility and wording of the items. Responses were sorted, and items on which there was 80% agreement were selected. The final version of the scale used in the study included 55 statements (5 items for each of the 11 problem areas described in the Mooney Problem Check List: social psychological relations; personal psychological relations; morals and religion; home and family; curriculum and teaching procedures; health and physical development; finances, living conditions, and employment; social and recreational activities; courtship, sex, and marriage; vocational and educational future; and adjustment to schoolwork).

The test-retest reliability of the short form was determined using a group of 25 adolescents (13 males and 12 females), ranging in age from 13 to 16 years, who were randomly selected from the schools described above (these participants were not included in the main study). The retest, which was administered after 15 to 16 days, yielded a correlation coefficient of .83.

The scale was completed by all adolescents anonymously in their school classrooms. Responses were on a 5-point scale (always, very often, sometimes, almost never, and never).


Analyses of the data were based on the frequency of responses in order to identify those factors which concerned Yemeni adolescents and the differences between males and females. Table 1 shows that, for the total sample, vocational and educational future was the most frequent concern, followed by recreational activities, religion and morals, curriculum and teaching, marriage and sexual matters, personal relations, finances and employment, adjustment to schoolwork, social relations, family and home issues, and health and physical development, in that order. When analyzed by gender, the most problematic area for males was vocational and educational future, followed by religion and morals, curriculum and teaching, recreational activities, marriage and sexual matters, finances and employment, adjustment to schoolwork, personal relations, family and home, social relations, and health and physical development. Females, on the other hand, selected recreational activities as most problematic, followed by vocational and educational future, religion and morals, personal relations, curriculum and teaching, marriage and sexual concerns, adjustment to schoolwork, finances and employment, social relations, family and home, and health and physical development.

However, such broad categories may be insufficient to illustrate the nature of the most frequent concerns of Yemeni adolescents. Table 2 shows the MPCL items with mean ratings of 2.51 or more. As can be seen in Table 2, there were 45 items (82%) with a mean score of 2.51 or higher. Among these, females and males had 31 items in common [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 2 OMITTED] (4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 21, 23, 24, 25, 32, 33, 34, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53, 54, and 55). Males expressed concern on 7 additional items (5, 11, 18, 31, 35, 44, and 46) and females on 7 other items (1, 3, 9, 14, 19, 28, and 37). In terms of the rank order of concerns expressed, this method of analysis resulted in a similar pattern to that identified in Table 1, although there were some differences. Respondents overall still expressed highest concern with vocational and educational future, followed by recreational activities, religion and morals, and curriculum and teaching, but the pattern after that varied somewhat: personal relations, adjustment to schoolwork, finances and employment, marriage and sexual matters, social relations, home and family, and health and physical development. For males, the order remained the same except that finances and employment moved up in priority from sixth to second. For females, the pattern was much more varied. While the area that was of most concern was still recreational activities, personal relations moved from fourth to second, marriage and sexual matters slipped below adjustment to schoolwork in importance, and social relations edged ahead of finances and employment.

Gender Differences

A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted to examine the differences in mean scores for males and females on each of the 11 areas of the scale. Table 3 shows that there were significant gender differences in all 11 problem areas. Step-down univariate ANOVAs were performed to further analyze the significant MANOVA effects. For these analyses, four steps were involved: (1) the item values for each problem area were ranked according to their theoretical importance, (2) the alpha value was adjusted to .01, (3) ANOVA was performed on value rank 1, and (4) ANCOVAs were performed on successive lower values with all higher values as covariates. The results are presented in Table 4. Only those items for which there were significant differences between males and females are shown.

As can be seen in Table 4, significant differences were found on 25 of the items. Male adolescents showed greater concern than did females on 12 of the items (2, 8, 11, 16, 23, 32, 35, 43, 44, 46, 48, and 54). Females showed greater concern on the other 13 items (6, 7, 9, 17, 19, 24, 27, 28, 37, 38, 40, 50, and 55). These differences suggest a gender division whereby males showed significantly higher degrees of concern in regard to marriage and sexual matters, vocational and educational future, finances and employment, and religion, and females in regard to recreational activities, personal relations, health and physical development, and family and home issues.
Table 3. Results of MANOVA for the 11 Areas of the MPCL

Area Wilks's Lambda F p

Social Relations .815 5.164 .000
Personal Relations .536 19.548 .000
Religion and Morals .539 19.499 .000
Family and Home .755 7.403 .000
Curriculum and Teaching .353 41.709 .000
Health and Physical Development .864 3.588 .005
Finances and Employment .371 4.945 .000
Recreational Activities .371 38.637 .000
Marriage and Sexual Matters .377 37.641 .000
Vocational and Educational Future .400 34.157 .000
Adjustment to Schoolwork .841 4.297 .001

(df = 7, 114)



The Yemeni adolescents in the present study appear to be concerned about many issues. Vocational and educational future had the highest mean score (80% of the items in this area reached the 2.51 criterion). For males it ranked first and for females it ranked second. Such findings suggest that adolescents in Yemen are particularly worried about their future career and schooling. Difficulties in knowing about their vocational abilities or the different university specializations were repeatedly noted. One explanation for their concern in this area may be the growing belief in Yemeni society that scholars and skilled workers gain social status and respect. They are likely to have a rewarding job and a promising future. In addition, women in Yemeni society, because of equal educational opportunities, are beginning to have greater educational and vocational aspirations. However, there are presently only two universities in the country, while vocational training is rare.

The second greatest area of concern involved recreation (it ranked first for females and fourth for males). Young people require leisure activities to develop a sense of who they are (Garton & Pratt, 1987), but few facilities are available for Yemeni adolescents even though their free time is considerable as the school day is relatively short (from 7:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M.) and the summer holiday is long (usually not less than three and a half months). There are very :few youth clubs and libraries, no social entertainment, and few sport clubs or playing areas.

Religion and morals was also regarded as a pressing problem by Yemeni adolescents. Overall, it was the third greatest area of concern (it ranked second for :males and third for females). Yemeni adolescents are usually inculcated with Muslim beliefs, and rituals include praying at certain times, fasting during the month of Ramadan, reading the Quran, and practicing the values of Islam. Influenced by these norms, adolescents were concerned about their limited knowledge of the Quran and not saying their prayers regularly.

Concern about curriculum and teaching was also reported. Difficulty with school subjects and examinations and teachers' inability to understand their students were emphasized. The lack of educational resources, inadequate preparation of teachers and administrators, and high student-teacher ratios may be responsible.

Although marriage and sexual matters are standard adolescent concerns, Islamic countries have strict norms and values, limiting sexual. relationships and placing restrictions on meetings between boys and girls. It is thus possible that these constraints do not give rise to the problems adolescents in other cultures experience (Stark et al., 1989).

Personal relations ranked fourth for females and eighth for males. This is consistent with the findings of previous research (e.g., Harper & Marshall, 1991), which has shown that females are more concerned about personal psychological relations than are males. (Social relations ranked tenth for males and ninth for females.)

Concern about employment/finances and schoolwork followed. These may be related to such factors as pressure from families to succeed in school, getting a job that has status, the shortage of educational resources, and the constraints of parental finances.

Family matters ranked next to last. Adolescents expressed concern that their parents were working too hard and sacrificing too much for them. Influenced by Islamic beliefs, Yemeni society places great importance on family life and cohesiveness. Consequently, it is not surprising that the adolescents reported minimal problems regarding parental conflict and control.

Health and physical development ranked last among the problem areas studied. As Yemeni medical facilities and services are poor, adolescents may have less access to information about physical well-being and health-related topics. In addition, such matters are given less emphasis in the Yemeni media.

When gender differences were examined, the results indicated that males and females reported a similar number of problems. Of the 25 items that showed significant gender differences, males showed more concern on 12 and females on the other 13. However, there were differences with respect to the types of problems reported. While males expressed more concern about their vocational and educational future, marriage and sexual matters, and finances and employment, females expressed more concern regarding recreation, personal relationships, and health and physical development. These findings and those of other studies (e.g., Lempers & Clark-Lempers, 1993) indicate the presence of different socialization patterns. The emphasis for males is on occupation and achievement, whereas females are socialized to be more concerned with interpersonal relations and personal appearance. However, males showed more concern than did females in marriage and sexual matters, but this may be because females are less willing to express their concerns due to the greater restrictions imposed on them as compared with males.

Although differences in methodology must be considered, it is important to compare the present findings with those of earlier studies. The Yemeni adolescents in this study showed many similarities with their counterparts from other cultures. For example, consistent with studies by Leung et al. (1986) in Hong Kong, Violato and Holden (1988) in Canada, Poole and Cooney (1987) in Australia and Singapore, and Isralowitz and Hong (1990) in Singapore, the findings revealed a high level of concern with education and future career, and similar to the study by Harper and Marshall (1991) in Australia, with recreational activities. At the same time, there were some differences. Problems involving family conflict, health and physical issues, and social relations, which permeate Western societies (Poole & Cooney, 1987; Leung et al., 1986), were comparatively less prominent in Yemen.

With regard to the similarities between adolescent males and females in the amount of concern expressed, the present study is consistent with that of Porteous (1985), but inconsistent with most previous studies (e.g., Harper & Marshall, 1991; Kwok & Violato, 1993), which have found that adolescent females have more problems than do males. This may be due to cultural differences in that social attitudes in Yemen may make females less willing to articulate their problems, particularly regarding sexual matters.


In studying the problems of adolescents, the differences between societies must be considered. Yemeni society is strongly influenced by religious beliefs and values, while the country is beset by many political, economic, and educational problems. Influenced by such factors, it is not surprising that the main concerns of Yemeni adolescents focus on their future, religious beliefs, leisure, and school experiences.

This study represents an initial step in examining the concerns and problems of adolescents in Yemen. More research is needed to replicate the findings with a larger sample, as well as analyze the effect of age. The coping strategies employed by adolescents should also be investigated. In the meantime, the results of the present study can help parents, educators, and others who work with youths to become familiar with the types of problems experienced by Yemeni adolescents and to better understand their needs and behaviors.


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