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Cult Med Psychiatry. 2003 Jun;27(2):187-219.

Identity, activity, and the well-being of adolescents and youths: lessons from young people in a Micronesian society.

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Center for Culture and Health, University of California, Los Angeles, 90095-1759, USA.


Comparative studies of the health, well-being, and social functioning of adolescents and youths have, in the past two decades, been focused on young people in developing countries where rapid social, cultural, and economic changes have been associated with dramatic increases in the rates of social problems indicative of poorer mental health. Young people in many Pacific Island societies suffer from some of the highest rates of social problems like suicide and substance abuse in the world. It is generally agreed that the increases in rates of social problems among youths in this region result from increases in psychosocial stress, anger, and frustration surrounding intergenerational conflict within the family. Much less is known about the aspects of everyday experiences of young people in the Pacific that can lead to psychosocial stress and the angry episodes of interpersonal conflict that often precede suicide attempts and binge drinking. This paper examines 40 cases of interpersonal conflict in young men's and women's experiences in the islands of Chuuk of the Federated States of Micronesia to better understand what can lead to elevated levels of psychosocial stress for youths in the Pacific. This study shows that the emotional crises of young people in Chuuk often emerge from the incongruence in their pursuit of valued personal and social identities within the family, the community, and the peer group. Thus youths who experience more incongruity in their engagements across the multiple activity settings of everyday life are at greater risk for stressful experiences.

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