It’s Tough to Cope in Rural Mali: Financial Coping Style, Mastery, Self Confidence, and Anxiety in a Bad and Worsening Socioeconomic Environment
Concerns over a series of “differences” have been central to Leonard Pearlin’s research and thought. Throughout his career, his focus has been on the different ways in which different kinds of people deal with the different stresses that result from different types of strain (Pearlin 1989; Pearlin et al. 1981; Pearlin and Schooler 1978). A particular focal point of his research and thought has centered on the effects of different mechanisms for coping with the stresses brought on by these strains on individuals’ psychological well being (Pearlin and Schooler 1978). Early in his career, Pearlin was also the first author of the first paper (Pearlin and Kohn 1966) that specifically aimed at examining the cross-cultural validity of the hypotheses about the effects of social-structurally determined environmental conditions on individuals’ orientations and values – hypotheses based on differences in orientations and values among U.S. social strata differing in their requirements for job success (Kohn 1963).
In this paper, we follow up on all of these concerns. We do so using data from a two-wave longitudinal study conducted in rural Mali in 1996 and 2004. With these data we examine how, in a cultural milieu decidedly different from those that exist in both industrial and post-industrial societies, individuals reacted psychologically, not only to an initially high level of economic strain, but also to an increase in economic strain between the two waves.
In the rural Malian context, the level of strain and stress involved in acquiring the bare necessities for simple survival are substantially greater than that faced by the vast majority of Americans. In 2002, during the time period of our study, Mali ranked 153rd out of 162 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index (United Nations Development Programme 2006); 72.8% of the population lived below the poverty line; 75% were illiterate, 66% were under 26 years of age; and infant mortality was 123 per 1,000, (USAID 2003).
This research was supported in part by the Intramural Program of the NIH, National Institute of Mental Health, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service.
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