Cultural Concepts of Negative Emotion: A Mixed-Methods Study Among Nepali Adolescents

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Berg, Martha


Kohrt, Brandon A

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Background: Emotions are shaped through the internalization of culturally relevant values. Contextualized systems of meaning influence an individual’s experience of emotion, the consequences of a given response, and their connection to long-term functional outcomes. The present study aims to explore the socioemotional world of Nepali adolescents, in order to understand emotional needs and identify opportunities for psychosocial intervention. Methods: A tablet-based battery of quantitative assessments was administered to 102 students in grades 7-9 (age 12-18) in an earthquake affected region of the Kathmandu Valley. Assessments included measures of anxiety, PTSD, functional impairment, and a local idiom of distress (problems in the heart-mind). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 students and explored the emotional experience of a recent stressor. Results: Three domains of emotion experience emerged: cognitive, physical, and social. While key differences in emotional distress across gender and cultural groups emerged, similarities in the overarching model suggest a shared understanding of negative emotion among Nepali adolescents. Of particular note is the social domain, involving both interpersonal and communal elements, which included the local idiom of distress, which has previously been linked to depression risk. Conclusion: This tripartite conceptualization of emotion is a critical step toward understanding cultural meanings of emotional wellbeing, and the connection between socially experienced emotion and psychopathology underlines the importance of psychosocial integration in future interventions.






Berg, Martha (2017). Cultural Concepts of Negative Emotion: A Mixed-Methods Study Among Nepali Adolescents. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from


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