Fatalism as a traditional cultural belief potentially relevant to trauma sequelae: Measurement equivalence, extent and associations in six countries

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Andreas Maercker, Menachem Ben-Ezra, Oscar A. Esparza & Mareike Augsburger


Background: Fatalism, known as the propensity to believe that one’s destiny is externally determined, has so far been examined selectively, and not yet in a cross-cultural study. Moreover, a general, non-data-based speculation assumes that fatalism occurs to a lesser extent in countries of the Global North than in the Global South.
Objective: Fatalism as a global psychological belief seems to have a prima facie validity, but this is to be investigated by measurement equivalence calculations across different countries from different world regions. Furthermore, socio-demographic and cultural geographic associations with fatalism scores will be investigated.
Method: A six items fatalism scale was introduced in six large population-based samples from Europe, Africa, and Latin America (total n=6’537). Testing of invariance followed standardized procedures for cross-cultural comparisons with a comprehensive parallel analysis. Regression analyses provided information on associations with socio-demography and cultural geography.
Results: The fatalism construct divided into accentuated pessimistic and non-judgmental subscores in five of the six countries. The German sample showed the highest fatalism scores compared to almost all other countries. In particular higher age and lower educational attainment determine fatalism scores across countries. An explorative analysis of the associations between PTSD symptoms and fatalism scores for African countries revealed small correlations.
Discussion: OnlFatalism as indicated by its subscores seems not to be an exclusive phenomenon of countries with higher economic and socio-cultural vulnerability. For all countries, sociodemographic groups can be identified in which these parts of a traditional belief system are more pronounced. Only for a subset of the countries examined has it been possible to analyse the associations with trauma. Further elaborated analyses in other samples should follow.

Keywords: culture; world view; fatalism; global beliefs; PTSD; human values

Received 19 Mar 2019, Accepted 11 Aug 2019, Published online: 02 Sep 2019

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