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Exploring the relationship among perceived resilience, dependency, and self-criticism: the role of culture and social support.

Interest in resilience has grown recently as an important factor in success and recovery from varying levels of trauma. Resilience is the ability to recover, adapt and thrive after experiencing a trauma or stressor (Asendorpf & van Aken, 1999; Connor & Davidson, 2003; Feeny, Rytwinski, & Zoellner, 2014). Research has shown that as individuals face more and more stressors and persevere through those stressors, their level of resilience increases (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenaurer, & Vohs, 2001). Perceptions of what constitutes resilience likely play an important role in determining whether we are able to persevere when exposed to challenge or hardship. Because all individuals have the capacity to be resilient, investigating our perceptions may help individuals and populations address stressors and identify resources best suited to increasing the probability of overcoming hardship and thriving in the face of adversity. Although certain factors, like social support, have been consistently connected to higher perceived resilience (Dole, 2000; Feeny et al., 2014; Morgan, Consoli & Llamas, 2013), personality and culture are influential in adaptive and maladaptive functioning (Luyten & Blatt, 2013). However, it is unclear what particular factors maximize perceived resilience in individuals and what function personality and culture may have in order to perceive resilience when confronted with adversity or challenge.

The Two Polarities Model of Personality Development

There is a significant body of research from multiple theoretical perspectives that supports the notion that both adaptive and maladaptive personality development can be understood through experiences of interpersonal relatedness and self-definition (Blatt, 2008; Luyten & Blatt, 2013). Broadly described as two polarity models, these theories suggest that people develop personality through a dialectic interaction between relationships with others and the development of an independent sense of self. Those with a balance of the two types of experiences tend to be more psychologically adaptive and healthy (Blatt, 2004), as developments in relatedness lead to more developed views of the self, which in turn benefit connections to others. Early experiences, however, can also disrupt healthy development, and individuals tend to value connections to others (relatedness) or tend to be more focused on the establishment of a sense of self (self-definition). For example, someone may be too dependent upon others (maladaptive expression of needs for relatedness) or too independent from others (maladaptive expression of needs for self-definition). Personality development that lacks a balance of self-definition and relatedness tends to put individuals more at risk for psychopathology (Blatt, 2008; Dunkley, Zuroff, & Blankstein, 2003). In summary, theories from diverse perspectives (psychodynamic, cognitive, attachment and self-determination) have identified polarity models as central in describing both normal and disrupted processes of personality development (Luyten & Blatt, 2013). Therefore it may be useful to understand what personality factors (varying levels of relatedness and self-definition) help us understand the perception of resilience in individuals and within cultures.


Relatedness has been described as the ability of the individual to focus on establishing and maintaining "reciprocal, meaningful and personally satisfying interpersonal relationships" (Luyten & Blatt, 2013, p. 172). Research has demonstrated that individuals who are invested in connecting to and establishing intimacy with others tend to focus on keeping close relations to others, on overcoming problems with others, and more on the present moment (Blatt, 2004). Related individuals tend to be agreeable (Mongrain, 1993), focus on their feelings (Dunkley, Blankstein, & Flett, 1997), and be submissive to other people in their lives (Santor & Zuroff, 1997). Because those with a related personality focus on relationships with others, they tend to have a stronger support system, an adaptive factor of relatedness. However, maladaptive forms of relatedness (dependency) may lead individuals to become too focused on others and overly dependent and needy (Dunkley et al., 1997; Priel & Besser 1999). Traditionally, dependency has been considered to be a vulnerability factor that predicts negative outcomes, however, there is evidence that dependency can be a protective factor as well and increase one's capacity for connectedness due to an enhanced ability to receive social support (Shahar, 2008).


Self-definition has been defined as the ability to establish and maintain "a coherent, realistic, differentiated, and essentially positive sense of self, or an identity" (Luyten & Blatt, 2013, 172). Self-efficacy, the adaptive form of self-definition, has not been studied extensively, but research shows that it is quite adaptive (Klein, 1989; Kuperminc, Blatt, & Leadbeater, 1997) and could act similarly to resilience (Blatt, 2004; Shahar, 2008). However, individuals who focus more on issues of self-worth, self-esteem and identity tend to be more introverted (Mongrain, 1993), isolated (Mongrain, Vesttese, Shuster, & Kendal, 1998), angry (Mongrain et al., 1998; Hewitt & Flett, 1991) and have low self-esteem (Zuroff, Moskowitz, Wielgus, Powers, & Franko, 1983). Self-criticism, the maladaptive form of self-definition, leads people to feel hopeless about the future (Mongrain, 1998) and separated from those around them (Dunkley et al., 1997). Maladaptive focus on the self increases risk for depression and other mental illnesses (Dunkley et al., 2003). Self-criticism may be related to difficulty forming social relationships, leading to rejection from others (Enns, Cox, Inayatulla, 2003; Mongrain, 1998). A lack of relationships and connection with others in one's life can lead to pathologies.

Social Support

The role of social support in maintaining and enhancing resilience has been well established in the literature (Burt, Simons, & Gibbons, 2012; Dole, 2000; Feeny et al., 2014; Jimenez Ambriz, Izal, & Montorio, 2011; Morgan Consoli & Llamas, 2013). Perceived social support is more strongly related to resilience than actual social support. For example, irrespective of the amount of social support that is received, the perception of social support determines outcome and therefore may be not be experienced as beneficial (Feeney et al., 2014). Findings have also shown the importance of emotional support over tangible support (money, food, etc.) along with the stronger effects of support from friends, family, and significant others over support from formal sources such as counselors and/or clinics (Feeny et al., 2014). Social support has also been linked to academic success in those facing difficult living circumstances, which shows signs of resilience (Dole, 2000). A lack of social support has been seen as a vulnerability factor to those trying to recover and leads to increased risk for mental illness, such as depression or PTSD (Feeny et al., 2014; Shahar, Joiner, Zuroff, & Blatt, 2004).

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences in aspects of personality exist (Luyten & Blatt, 2013; Soenens, Park, Vansteenkiste, & Mouratidis, 2012), however the impact of culture on resilience is less well known. In previous studies, individuals from collectivist and individualistic cultures showed differences in how they reported perceived social support. Cultural dimensions theory provides an index of individualism versus collectivism, which is measured based on who the individual connects with the most; members of individualistic countries focus on "I" much more than "we" and tend to connect with their immediate family. On the other hand, members of collectivist cultures connect with their immediate and extended families and also go beyond that to connect with larger in-groups as well (Hofstede, 1984); they show a great amount of support and loyalty towards those of their own in-group, especially when pitted against another group of individuals (Triandis, Bontempo & Villareal, 1988). Individualists focus on the self as being separate from others, while collectivists view the self as a part of the group (Schmitt & Allik, 2005). Collectivists also tend to rely on more support from their parents and other family members (DeRosier & Kupersmidt, 1991; French, Rianasari, Pidada, Nelwan, & Buhrmester, 2001), tend to find emotional support from others more available (Pines & Zaidman, 2003), and are more attuned to their community than individualists (Brown & Cai, 2010). These differences in social support and self-esteem are strong indicators that personality and culture are important factors to consider when attempting to understand perceived resilience of individuals.

Present Study

Although the relationship between personality and perceived resilience as defined by the five-factor model has been previously explored (Asendorpf & van Aken, 1999; Huemer, Volkl-Kernstock, Karnik, Denny, Granditsch, Mitterer, & Steiner, 2013), there has been no research to date that has looked at how two polarity models might explain differences in perceived resilience. Because the personality constructs of relatedness (and its connection to social support and dependency) and self-definition (and its relationship to self-criticism) are connected to the ability to recover, thrive and adapt, it is likely that they are also related to perceived resilience. The present study explores the relationships among personality, perceived resilience, and social support. As every human will experience a varying level of failure throughout life, it is important to understand how that failure will be dealt with. Jointly, individuals vary in personality type, which may be due to the culture in which they are raised. This research aims to see where culture and personality may work together in order to help psychologists better understand the way in which one may perceive their own level of resilience.

Due to previous research findings, it was expected that those who perceived greater social support would define themselves as being more related and also perceive greater resilience. Because personality is challenging to understand without appreciating culture (Luyten & Blatt, 2013), individuals from different cultural backgrounds likely will exhibit differences in how self-definition and relatedness are valued in order to be resilient. There are likely differences between individuals from different cultures, as relatedness has been connected to more collectivist or interdependent cultures and self-definition to more individualistic cultures (Luyten & Blatt, 2013). Differences in how various cultures perceive resilience may determine how social support is understood, utilized, and maintained.



The study was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board. Participants were recruited using Mechanical Turk, a website, or online labor market that uses currency to award workers for participation in a wide range of tasks. Social science researchers are beginning to use Mechanical Turk with greater frequency as it is a useful and reliable place to post questionnaires to a large range of participants from all over the world (Horton, Rand, & Zeckhauser, 2011). Research conducted on Mechanical Turk has been found to be as valid as research conducted in a lab setting (Buhrmester, Kwang, & Gosling, 2011; Johnson & Borden, 2012; Mason & Suri, 2011). Studies have also shown that due to the highly diverse participant pool, Mechanical Turk study samples are more representative of the population as a whole than the typical college student sample used in psychological research (Buhrmester et al., 2011). In the present study, participation was restricted to participants whose previous submissions received an approval rate of 95% or higher by other researchers they had completed work for. It was anticipated that a bimodal distribution would exist, showing a significant difference between the relationship of perceived resilience and the two polarities of the Depressive Experiences Questionnaire. (Mason & Suri, 2011).

All participants completed a survey that asked self-report questions pertaining to their level of perceived resilience, social support, and personality. Participants also answered demographic questions about age, gender, country of origin, country of residence, and race/ethnicity. The survey took approximately 10-30 minutes to complete. Submissions were rejected if surveys were completed in five minutes or less or if subject responses were invalid (e.g. completed in a zigzag pattern, answering the same for every statement). Only participants older than eighteen were included and all participants gave consent.


In total, 268 surveys were completed. Of the completed submissions, 33 were not used due to random or invalid responding. The final sample consisted of 235 persons (54.8 % female, 45.2% male; mean age = 35.68, SD = 13.48). Those with acceptable work were compensated US $0.75 through Mechanical Turk. Of these participants, 84 identified their country of origin as India (95% Asian, 1% Caucasian, 1% Pacific Islander, 3% Other), 126 identified their country of origin as the United States (82% Caucasian, 9% African American, 6% Hispanic, 2% Asian, 1% Mixed Race, 1% Other), and the countries of origin for the remaining 25 were various other countries around the world. A final sample of 210 participants was used for data analysis. Data from only those who identified their country of origin as India (the India group) and as the United States (the US group) were used in analyses. This decision was made in order to examine two types of cultures: individualism and collectivism. Overall, participants' ages ranged from 18 to 95 years, with the mean age in the India group (M = 33.38) being similar to the US group (M = 37.33). In both the India group (males = 53, females = 31) and US group (males = 42, females = 84) both genders were well represented.


DEQ. The Depressive Experiences Questionnaire (DEQ; Blatt, D'Affliti, Quinlan, 1976) is a validated 66-item self-report measure that assesses personality through Dependency, Self-Criticism, and Efficacy. It was created for research on depression, but is now often used for understanding personality (Luyten & Blatt, 2013). The scale is measured on a 7-point continuum with 1 (strongly disagree) on one end, 4 in the middle, and 7 (strongly agree) on the other end. In this study, only the Self-Criticism and Dependency scales were used. An example statement from the self-criticism scale is, "I often find that I don't live up to my own standards or ideals." The dependency scale consisted of statements like, "Without support from others who are close to me, I would be helpless." High scores on these scales indicate maladaptive personality characteristics. The decision not to use the efficacy scale in this study was made because it is not as widely used in other studies using the DEQ as the dependency and self-criticism scales (Blatt, 2008). In the present study, Cronbach's alpha for the total scale was .89.

CD-RISC. The Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC; Connor & Davidson, 2003) is a 25-item scale that measures individuals' perceived resilience levels. The scale has been used in many research studies exploring resilience among different populations and has been found to correlate with other measures exploring similar concepts (Connor & Davison, 2003). Questions are scored on a 4-point scale ranging from 0 (not true at all) to 4 (true nearly all the time). Statements were similar to, "I am able to adapt when changes occur." The English version of this scale was presented to all participants. In the present study Cronbach's alpha for the total scale was .91.

MSPSS. The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS; Zimet, Dahlem, Zimet & Farly, 1988) is a 12-item measure that involves questions pertaining to ones perceived level of social support they are receiving from family, friends, and significant others. It is scored on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) with 4 (neutral) being the middle point of the scale. This scale consisted of statements like, "I get the emotional help and support I need from my family." In the present study, Cronbach's alpha for the total scale was .93.


Pearson's product moment correlation coefficients were calculated among all measures in the India group and the United States group separately. The India group correlations can be seen in Table 1 and the United States group correlations can be seen in Table 2.

Samples from both countries showed significant positive correlations between perceived resilience and the social support (India: r = .594, N = 84, p < .01, two-tailed; U.S.: r = .460, N = 126, p < .01, two-tailed). There were differences in the correlations when comparing the two groups' responses on perceived resilience and the scales of the DEQ. The India group showed a significant positive correlation between perceived resilience and the dependence scale of the DEQ (r = .285, N = 84, p < .01, two-tailed) and the United States respondents showed a significant negative correlation between perceived resilience and the Dependency

Scale of the DEQ (r = -.340, N = 126, p < .01, two-tailed). Between perceived resilience and the self-criticism scale of the DEQ, the India group showed no significant correlation, (r = -.202, N = 84, p > .01, two-tailed) but the United States sample showed a significant negative correlation (r = -.480, N = 126, p < .01, two-tailed). In order to determine significant differences between correlations, Fisher's r-to-z transformation was used. A significant difference existed in the correlation of perceived resilience and the dependence scale between the India group and the U.S. group (z = 4.49, p < .05, two-tailed). Also, a significant difference existed in the correlation of perceived resilience and the self-criticism scale between the India group and the U.S. group (z = 2.24, p < .05, two-tailed). There was no significant difference between the India group and the U. S. group in the correlation of perceived resilience and perceived social support (z = 1.26, p = .208, two-tailed).


The purpose of the study was to explore the relationship between personality (dependency and self-criticism as measured by the DEQ) and perceived resilience (as measured by the CD-RISC), with particular interest in differences between cultural groups. The results of this study demonstrated how the relationship between personality and resilience is perceived differently amongst the varying countries of origin, or culture, of the individuals. Data from the India group and the United States group show that individuals from two different cultures may process differently the ability to overcome difficulty when exposed to adverse events, even though social support remains an important factor in perceived resilience regardless of personality configuration.

The India group showed a moderately positive relationship between perceived resilience and dependency, meaning that as one was more dependent on those around them they tended to perceive themselves as more resilient. Alternatively, there was a moderate negative relationship in the United States group between perceived resilience and dependency. Contrasted with the India group, dependency was related to less perceived resilience in the United States group. In other words, individuals from the US group with lower interpersonal dependency believed that they were more resilient than those who identified as being more interpersonally dependent. The India group showed no correlation between perceived resilience and self-definition, meaning that the degree to which one was focused on self-definition was not a factor in the level of perceived resilience among the India group. There was a strong negative relationship between perceived resilience and self-definition in the United States group, indicating that in the United States group, self-criticism was connected to an absence of perceived resilience, and autonomy was connected to perceived resilience.

These findings indicate that perceptions of resilience manifest themselves depending on culture, and the data from our study show that these differences align with broad conceptions of collectivist and individualistic cultures (Hofstede, 1984; Triandis et al., 1988). The fact that higher perceived resilience is related to dependence and not related to self-definition in the India group is indicative of a collectivist culture that values others as more important than the individual (French et al., 2001). On the other hand, dependence in the United States group was correlated with low perceived resilience, indicating that independence was linked with the perception of resiliency. Additionally, perceived resilience was negatively correlated with self-definition, with self-criticism being related to lower levels of perceived resiliency. In the United States group, both high levels of relatedness (dependence) and self-definition (self-criticism) were correlated with low levels of perceived resilience. Therefore, based on data from measures of relatedness and self-definition, the India group emphasizes importance on depending upon others, while the United States group emphasizes independence from others. Resilience is adaptive (Dole, 2000; Feldman & Masalha, 2007; Huemer et al., 2013), however the difference in correlations highlight how adaptability depends on personality and cultural factors. These findings are supported by previous research that has demonstrated that collectivist cultures are more relationally oriented while individualistic cultures are more interested in self-definition (Luyten & Blatt, 2013).

Although different relationships between perceived resilience and relatedness were found, a strong positive relationship between perceived resilience and perceived social support was found in both groups. This means that in both cultures, those who perceived that they received more social support perceived they were more resilient. This is similar to previous research that has established the importance of a positive support system in managing stress and trauma (Dole, 2000; Feeny et al., 2014; Shahar et al., 2004).

However, these findings don't have meaning unless the importance of personality is accounted for, as there appears to be a difference in the way social support is perceived between the two cultures. Although the United States group believed that having a support system is important, they also believed that dependency was related to limited resilience. It is likely that dependency was seen as a weakness to overcoming adversity, aligning with individualistic cultural expectations of self-definition. Perceived resiliency was correlated to a greater amount of social support in the India group. However, unlike their United States counterparts, increased levels of relatedness and dependency were correlated with higher resilience. Therefore, the way one processes social support may be more important than the mere presence of others. Alternatively, it likely depends on the meaning of social support (and therefore others) to the individual. It is likely that collectivist cultures use others to connect when in need, while individualistic cultures use others to support their sense of self, identity, esteem, and value. Therefore, as social support has been reliably demonstrated as a crucial factor in resilience (Dole, 2000; Feeney et al., 2014; Morgan Consoli & Llamas, 2013), individuals from different cultures may require different types of social support when predicting their own ability to be resilient. However, the confidence to overcome adversity may very well depend on how self-definition and relatedness are emphasized in a given culture and within a particular individual.

Our findings may be helpful to anyone interested in supporting the resiliency of others, including psychotherapists, physicians, school or university administrators, agencies, and companies. Because the relationship between perceived resilience and dependency differs depending on culture, it may be important to choose appropriate social support interventions. For example, acculturation to an individualistic culture may benefit from activities and resources geared towards connectedness and dependency through experiential exercises, support groups and meaningful relationship building, and may benefit less from information, materials or didactic presentation of information. Additionally, individuals from collectivist cultures may be more invested in group process and group cohesion as a way to maintain and enhance resilience (Triandis, 2001). In collectivist cultures, it might be harmful to resilience if there is an unbalanced focus on the health of the individual and might be more important to address the health of the group as a whole. Interventions that build resilience in an individualist culture may need to focus on building independent self-esteem and self-confidence in a manner in which the individual believes in their ability to thrive on their own. Perceived resilience in an individualist culture may be maximized by creating a feeling of independence and confidence to accomplish tasks.

The results and discussion need to be considered in light of study limitations. Due to the self-report nature of the data these findings are based on perceived levels of resilience. The relationships between personality and resilience that differ in the two discussed cultures are also based on perceptions of resilience from those living in that specific culture. Future research may look into whether individuals' perceptions about resilience and personality are accurate based on their actual ability to be resilient in the face of adversity or hardship. This study also assumed cultural construct as collectivist or individualistic based on country of origin, however no measure of collectivism or individualism was used. Future research could attempt to further explore these findings by measuring cultural effects based on exact culture types. Another limitation arising between the two cultural constructs is the manner in which the social support questionnaire was answered. Members of collectivist cultures have been known to define the word friend as implying a much more intimate relationship than those in individualistic cultures define a friend (Triandis et al., 1988). This being said, when asked about having friends that support an individual, those from different backgrounds may have interpreted the question differently. Although Mechanical Turk has been increasingly utilized effectively in social science research and has demonstrated validity, there are limitations to its use in this study (Buhrmester et al, 2011; Mason & Suri, 2012). In order to participate in the study individuals must have a Mechanical Turk account, meaning they have a computer and Internet access. Participants may have been representative of certain socioeconomic classes, limiting the diversity and applicability of findings. Additionally, those from the India group had to know English, and results may have been different for non-English speakers. As for the decision to not use the efficacy dimension of the DEQ in this study, it is believed that further research should be conducted using this scale, specifically in its relation to resilience. Lastly, the study was exploratory and used correlational data, meaning that it is impossible to determine causality. However, our findings are consistent with previous research regarding the impact of intrapersonal and interpersonal factors on resiliency.

Alexis K. Satterwhite & Andrew F. Luchner

Rollins College


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Note: Both authors contributed to conception and design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data, drafting the article and revising it critically for important intellectual content.

Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge the Rollins College Student Faculty Collaborative Research Program, the Rollins College Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, the John Hauck Foundation, and the Edward W. and Stella C. Van Houten Memorial Fund for all of their help in funding this study.

Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: Dr. Andrew F. Luchner, Rollins College, Department of Psychology, 1000 Holt Avenue--2760, Winter Park, FL 32789
TABLE 1 Correlations of Measures in Indian Respondents

Measure          1         2         3

1. CD-RISC      --
2. DEQ-DEP    .28 **      --
3. DEQ-SC      -.20      -.17       --
4. MSPSS      .59 **    .58 **    -.40 **

Note. CD-RISC = Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale; DEQ-DEP = Depressive
Experiences Questionnaire-dependency scale; DEQ-SC = Depressive
Experiences Questionnaire-self-criticism scale; MSPSS =
Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support.

** p < .01, two-tailed

TABLE 2 Correlations of Measures in United States Respondents

Measure          1          2          3

1. CD-RISC       --
2. DEQ-DEP    - 34 **       --
3. DEQ-SC     -.48 **     .34 **       --
4. MSPSS       .46 **      .12      -.36 **

Note. CD-RISC = Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale; DEQ-DEP = Depressive
Experiences Questionnaire-dependency scale; DEQ-SC = Depressive
Experiences Questionnaire-self-criticism scale; MSPSS =
Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support.

** p < .01, two-tailed
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Author:Satterwhite, Alexis K.; Luchner, Andrew F.
Publication:North American Journal of Psychology
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Mar 1, 2016
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