Skip to main content
Intended for healthcare professionals
Restricted access
Research article
First published online December 2, 2018

Cultural Differences in the Perception of Personal Growth Among Adolescents


Research shows that some adolescents experience positive psychological changes resulting from highly stressful life events. Because “positive change” is a value-laden concept, there may be cross-cultural differences in this conception of growth. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively and quantitatively assess different perceptions of personal growth across cultures. Adolescents from Japan (n = 288, Mage = 16.16) and the United States (n = 155, Mage = 16.21) completed demographic information and wrote three words describing their perception of personal growth. Results showed 443 different words generated, which were condensed into 12 categories. The types of words generated differed between nationalities, with Japanese adolescents generating more words related to social connection, and adolescents in the United States generating words related to change. Gender differences were found in physical change and age differences in the knowledge categories. Results demonstrate cross-cultural differences as well as similarities in the conceptualization of personal growth. Future research may examine how adolescents change the meaning of personal growth after experiencing personal growth resulting from a stressful life event.

Get full access to this article

View all access and purchase options for this article.


Ahuviea A. C. (2002). Individualism/collectivism and cultures of happiness: A theoretical conjecture on the relationship between consumption, culture and subjective well-being at the national level. Journal of Happiness Studies, 3, 23-36.
Bergman M. M., Scott J. (2001). Young adolescents’ wellbeing and health-risk behaviours: Gender and socio-economic differences. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 183-197.
Choi I., Nisbett R. E., Norenzayan A. (1999). Causal attribution across cultures: Variation and universality. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 47-63.
Fiske A. P., Kitayama S., Markus H. R., Nisbett R. E. (1998). The cultural matrix of social psychology. In Gilbert D. T., Fiske S. T., Lindzey G. (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (Vols. 1 and 2) (4th ed.) (pp. 915-981). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Hays P. A. (1996). Culturally responsive assessment with diverse older clients. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 27, 188-193.
Hofstede G., Hofstede G. J., Minkov M. (2010). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind (Revised and Expanded 3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill USA.
Ickovics J. R., Meade C. S., Kershaw T. S., Milan S., Lewis J. B., Ethier K. A. (2006). Urban teens: Trauma, posttraumatic growth, and emotional distress among female adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 841-850.
Kilmer R. P., Gil-Rivas V., Griese B., Hardy S. J., Hafstad G. S., Alisic E. (2014). Posttraumatic growth in children and youth: Clinical implications of an emerging research literature. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84, 506-518.
Lefkowitz E. S., Zeldow P. B. (2006). Masculinity and femininity predict optimal mental health: A belated test of the androgyny hypothesis. Journal of Personality Assessment, 87, 95-101.
Matsumoto D., Juang L. (2008). Culture and psychology (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Milam J. E., Ritt-Olson A., Unger J. B. (2004). Posttraumatic growth among adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 19, 192-204.
Mohr E. (2014). Posttraumatic growth in youth survivors of a disaster: An arts-based research project. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 31, 155-162.
Schwandt H. (2016). Unmet aspirations as an explanation for the age U-shape in wellbeing. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 122, 75-87.
Spencer-Rodgers J., Boucher H. C., Mori S. C., Wang L., Peng K. (2009). The dialectical self-concept: Contradiction, change, and holism in East Asian cultures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 29-44.
Spencer-Rodgers J., Williams M. J., Peng K. (2010). Cultural differences in expectations of change and tolerance for contradiction: A decade of empirical research. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14, 296-312.
Suh E., Diener E., Oishi S., Triandis H. C. (1998). The shifting basis of life satisfaction judgements across cultures: Emotions versus norms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 482-493.
Takano Y., Sogon S. (2008). Are Japanese more collectivistic than Americans? Examining conformity in in-groups and the reference-group effect. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 39, 237-250.
Tedeschi R. G., Calhoun L. G. (1996). The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: Measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9, 455-472.
Zheng P., Gray M. J. (2015). Posttraumatic coping and distress: An evaluation of Western conceptualization of trauma and its applicability to Chinese culture. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 46, 723-736.


Whitney Dominick, MS, is a 4th-year doctoral candidate in the PTG lab through the Department of Psychology at Oakland University. Although she studies PTG cross-culturally, her primary research focus concerns the impact of animals in fostering PTG.
Kanako Taku, PhD, is an associate professor of the Department of Psychology and the director of the Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) lab at Oakland University in Michigan. She has conducted PTG research cross-culturally and authored articles and books in English and Japanese.

Cite article

Cite article

Cite article


Download to reference manager

If you have citation software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice

Share options


Share this article

Share with email

Share access to this article

Sharing links are not relevant where the article is open access and not available if you do not have a subscription.

For more information view the Sage Journals article sharing page.

Information, rights and permissions


Published In

Article first published online: December 2, 2018
Issue published: October 2019


  1. personal growth
  2. adolescents
  3. culture
  4. mixed methods

Rights and permissions

© 2018 SAGE Publications.
Request permissions for this article.


Published online: December 2, 2018
Issue published: October 2019



Whitney Dominick
Oakland University, Rochester, MI, USA
Kanako Taku
Oakland University, Rochester, MI, USA


Whitney Dominick, Department of Psychology, Oakland University, 205 Pryale Hall, 654 Pioneer Drive, Rochester, MI 48309, USA. Email: [email protected]

Metrics and citations


Journals metrics

This article was published in Cross-Cultural Research.


Article usage*

Total views and downloads: 604

*Article usage tracking started in December 2016

Articles citing this one

Web of Science: 2 view articles Opens in new tab

Crossref: 2

  1. Religiosity as a factor of social-emotional resilience and personal gr...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  2. Conceptualisations of personal growth in Ghanaian Orthodox Christians
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar

Figures and tables

Figures & Media


View Options

Get access

Access options

If you have access to journal content via a personal subscription, university, library, employer or society, select from the options below:

Alternatively, view purchase options below:

Purchase 24 hour online access to view and download content.

Access journal content via a DeepDyve subscription or find out more about this option.

View options


View PDF/ePub

Full Text

View Full Text