After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
• distinguish between different agents of socialisation
• explain the concept of cultural sensitivity
• interpret the concept of cultural competence
• critically examine the impact of culture on behaviour
• develop an understanding of the concept and implications of cross-cultural psychology for practice.
Homogenization sterilizes. It's the sum of cultures and languages that makes humanity.
(Pierre Bourgault, 1996, p. 13)
This chapter explores the concept of cross-cultural psychology. Initially, we will move from a basic definition of culture to a more complex understanding of the term. After gaining insight into the elements of culture as a concept, we will then develop an understanding of the impact of culture. We examine how subjective experiences shape definitions and characteristics of culture. We will explore if culture is a static concept or evolves in response to subtle changes over periods of time.
Why is this topic necessary? Cross-cultural appreciation is a requirement of a health professional's clinical practice, as in today's social, political and economic environments we encounter clients from diverse backgrounds who have concerns that arise from their subjective experience of their world (Christopher et al., 2014). To be able to respond effectively to our client's concerns, it is necessary to achieve a sound level of cultural competence, sensitivity and safety, and to facilitate an effective therapeutic relationship and deliver empathetic care while maintaining ethical practices. Cross-cultural appreciation embraces humanity and highlights similarities and differences between cultural groups. Cross-cultural appreciation also helps reduce bias created by our own ethnocentric behaviours regardless of whether these behaviours are consciously or unconsciously unfolding. There has been an emerging idea in contemporary society that the classical lens of traditional psychology often fails to take into account the impact of culture on an individual's behaviour (Wisniewski & Wu, 2014). The impact of culture on an individual's thoughts and actions cannot be overestimated. The significance is further highlighted by the recent changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)(American Psychiatric Association, 2013) with the inclusion of important revisions based on cultural issues and their subsequent therapeutic implications (La Roache, Fuentes & Hinton, 2015).