Comparative Investigation of Adolescents’ Generalized Pliance and Psychological Inflexibility across Cultural Contexts


Generalized pliance is a pattern of rule-governed behavior characterized by having social approval as the main source of reinforcement. Recent research has found that generalized pliance is related to psychological inflexibility. As generalized pliance and psychological inflexibility are learned through social interaction, there may be differences in these processes across cultures. The present study examined adolescents’ generalized pliance and psychological inflexibility with respect to cultural context and gender in a sample of adolescents (n = 508) aged 12–17 in the Irish and Colombian contexts. Generalized pliance was higher in the Irish context than in the Colombian context. In the Irish context, females reported greater generalized pliance and psychological inflexibility than males. In the Colombian context, females reported greater psychological inflexibility than males. Findings are discussed with reference to the need for longitudinal studies across different cultures to analyze developmental trajectories of generalized pliance and psychological inflexibility.

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Authors’ Contribution Statement

All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by Alison Stapleton and Francisco Ruiz Jiménez. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Alison Stapleton and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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Correspondence to Alison Stapleton.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Approval

This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the authors’ institutional ethics committees in Ireland and Colombia.


All participants provided informed parental/guardian consent and assent.

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The dataset generated during the current study are available in the Open Science Framework repository (

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Stapleton, A., Ruiz, F.J. & McHugh, L. Comparative Investigation of Adolescents’ Generalized Pliance and Psychological Inflexibility across Cultural Contexts. Psychol Rec (2020).

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  • Generalized pliance
  • Rule-governed behavior
  • Psychological inflexibility
  • Adolescents
  • Relational frame theory