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The role of secure attachment, empathic self-efficacy, and stress perception in causal beliefs related to mental illness – a cross-cultural study: Italy versus Israel

Authors Mannarini S, Reikher A, Shani S, Shani-Zinovich I

Received 3 April 2017

Accepted for publication 4 August 2017

Published 9 October 2017 Volume 2017:10 Pages 313—321

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S138683

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman


Stefania Mannarini,1 Alisa Reikher,1 Sharon Shani,1 Inbal Shani-Zinovich2

1Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Education and Applied Psychology, Interdepartmental Center for Family Research, University of Padova, Padova, Italy; 2Department of Counseling and Human Development, Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel

Background: Research suggests that “mental illness etiological beliefs” and attitudes toward mentally ill people are significantly related; it has also been demonstrated that adult attachment style and empathic self-efficacy affect such attitudes. Moreover, community or regional culture has a significant impact on etiology beliefs and attitudes toward the mentally sick.
Materials and methods: We carried out this study in Italy and Israel among psychology students to compare two cultures in regards to causal beliefs of mental disorders and the roles that specific variables, such as secure attachment, empathic self-efficacy, and stress, play in etiological beliefs. The participants (N=305) were students who belonged to two universities: Padua (N=183) and Haifa (N=122). The Many Facet Rasch Model (MFRM) was applied in a cross-cultural perspective to analyze the differential functioning of specific etiological beliefs in relation to the above mentioned variables; the effect of gender and religious beliefs was also entered in the MFRM.
Results: The two cultures reacted differently to the biogenetic and psychosocial causal explanations of mental disorders: Israeli students endorsed the biogenetic causal beliefs model more frequently than the Italians. Among other findings, concerning the biogenetic model, the Italian students were predominantly males, who declared to be religious and reported lower levels of secure attachment than Israelis. On the other hand, the Israeli students who manifested a preference toward the biogenetic explanation were mostly females, who declared not to be religious and who manifested higher levels of secure attachment than the Italians.
Conclusion: This article is expected to contribute to the improvement of the understanding of general public’s etiological beliefs of mental illness. Similarities and differences between the two cultures, Israel and Italy, have been highlighted on the basis of the MFRM analysis. The effect that interpersonal relations, such as attachment style, perceived empathy, and stress, have on etiological beliefs was also investigated.

Keywords: mental illness, stigma, etiological beliefs, attachment, self-efficacy, stress, Italy, Israel, attitudes, empathy

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