No assessment education is complete without an understanding of the cultural and subcultural influences on assessment data. This is an important issue because often the effects of cultural variables may be misinterpreted as personality abnormality. Therefore, traditional tests might be inappropriate for some people, and for others adjustments in interpretation should be made by reference to cultural or subcultural norms. Students should recognize that it is unethical to use typical normative findings to evaluate members of other cultures unless data are available suggesting cross-cultural equivalence. The reader should refer to the chapter by Geisinger in this volume on testing and assessment in cross-cultural psychology.
In many cases traditional test items are either irrelevant to the patient or have a different meaning from that intended. Often, merely translating a test into the patient's language is not adequate because the test items or even the test format may still be inappropriate. Knowledge of various subgroups obtained from reading, consulting with colleagues, and interacting with members of the culture goes a long way to sensitize a person to the problems encountered in personality assessment with members of that subgroup. It is also important to understand the significant differences among various ethnic and cultural groups in what is considered normal or typical behavior. Cultural factors play a critical role in the expression of psychopathology; unless this context is understood, it is not possible to make an accurate assessment of the patient. The instructor should introduce examples of variations in test performance from members of different cultural groups. For example, figure drawings obtained from children in different cultures are shown to students (Dennis, 1966). In some groups the drawings look frighteningly like those produced by retarded or by severely emotionally disturbed children.
Another problem concerning culturally competent personality assessment is the importance of determining the degree of acculturation the person being assessed has made to the prevailing mainstream culture. This analysis is necessary to determine what set of norms the assessor might use in the interpretive process. Although it is not possible to include readings about assessment issues for all available subcultures, it is possible to include research on the subgroups the student is likely to encounter in his or her training. There are a number of important resources available to assist students in doing competent multicultural assessments (e.g., Dana, 2000a, 2000b). Allen (1998) reviews personality assessment with American Indians andAlaskaNatives; Lindsey (1998) reviews such work withAfricanAmerican clients; Okazaki (1998) reviews assessment with Asian Americans; and Cuéllar (1998) reviews cross-cultural assessment with Hispanic Americans.
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