THE IMPACTS OF INDIVIDUALISM/COLLECTIVISM,
SELF-ESTEEM, AND FEELING OF MASTERY ON LIFE
SATISFACTION AMONG THE TURKISH UNIVERSITY
STUDENTS AND ACADEMICIANS
(Accepted 23 July, 2002)
ABSTRACT. This study had two goals. The ﬁrst one was to determine whether
the predictors of individualism/collectivism, self-esteem, and feeling of mastery
in a speciﬁc socio-cultural environment in which individuals from different
cultural backgrounds interact with each other explain life satisfaction. The second
goal was to illuminate the contradiction between cross cultural and local ﬁnd-
ings about ongoing Turkish cultural experience within the related variables and
the frame of the socio cultural environment. Research participants numbered
696, 388 students and 308 academicians of Mersin University. Students were
enrolled in the Faculty of Art and Science, the Faculty of Engineering and the
Faculty of Administrative Sciences and Economics. Fifty percent of them were
females and the ﬁfty percent were males. The academic sample consisted of
the academic personnel (instructors, assistants, lecturers, and professors) in the
above-mentioned faculties. The sample made up of academicians was also half
female and half male. The participants responded to the Turkish version of the
short form of Individualism/Collectivism Scale (INDCOL), the Rosenberg Self-
Esteem Scale, the Mastery Scale and the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Among
these scales, the short form of INDCOL showed a high level of construct validity
and the Mastery Scale showed a moderate level of construct validity in the
related samples. Others have showed high levels of validities and reliabilities in
the previous Turkish studies conducted. The ﬁndings of this study revealed that
individualism predicted high life satisfaction and collectivism predicted low life
satisfaction. Self-esteem and mastery also predicted high life satisfaction. It was
observed in this study that university life contributed to male university students
being autonomous and independent.
In recent years, a striking number of studies have been devoted to
cultural aspects of behavior (Hofstede, 1991; Kim, 1994; Triandis,
1995; Triandis et al., 1985). Culture as a broad concept has been
Social Indicators Research 61: 297–317, 2003.
© 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
298 UNSAL YETIM
considered to be the main variable that shapes individual and group
attitudes, values, trends, and behaviors. One cultural construct that
has received much empirical attention over the past 20 years is
individualism-collectivism (I-C). Despite looseness of the term,
several commonalities in behavior varying across different cultural
contexts are summarized and put forth as the discriminative typolo-
gies about cultures (Kim, 1994; Kagitcibasi, 1994, 1997).
This recent progress has immediately been reﬂected in the ﬁeld
of subjective well-being and it has revealed the fact that life satis-
faction could differ depending on cultural context. In fact, there is
enough evidence that scores of happiness are meaningfully related
to I-C levels of societies. Diener et al. (1995) for example, found
a strong correlation between the level of individualism of nations
and their scores of subjective well-being. Similarly, Triandis (1995)
claimed that people consign different values to subjective well-
being depending on their cultural orientation. In short, individualists
pay more attention to their own happiness because the concept
of independence is emphasized in this type of culture. Another
reason the individualistic-collectivistic aspect of societies might
affect subjective well-being is that objective quality of life condi-
tions in individualistic nations are better than those in collectivistic
nations. Moreover, individualistic nations have already developed
their “democratic institutions” and reached a state of stability in
their economic and social life (Inglehart and Rabbier, 1986). In
contrast, many of the collectivistic nations have been suffering from
economic and politic instabilities and poor life conditions. (Inglehart
and Klingemann, 2000).
In addition to the global appearance of I-C and its relation to
subjective well-being, there are also interesting differences among
some of the personality constructs. One focus of cultural compar-
ison has been the concept of self. Generally the self in collec-
tivistic cultures has been described as enmeshed, ensembled, inter-
dependent, and contextualized (Tafarodi and Walters, 1999). In
contrast, the self in individualistic cultures has been described as
self-contained, isolated independent, and clearly bounded (Markus
and Kitayama, 1991; Sampson, 1989).
Kagitcibasi (1990, 1996a) presented an integrative evaluation in
which she emphasized family as the center for self-development.
THE IMPACTS OF INDIVIDUALISM 299
In her studies of different cultural and socio-economic contexts,
she argued that antecedents of self-development were mediated
by the family. Kagitcibasi (1990, 1994, 1996b, 1997) differen-
tiated between the relational and separated self in her studies.
According to her, the relational self develops especially in the family
model of emotional and material interdependence-typical in subsist-
ence economics and agrarian life styles with collectivistic cultures
requiring intergenerational dependence. On the other hand, the sepa-
rated self develops in the family model of independence, seen in the
Western urban contexts with individualistic cultures where intergen-
erational dependence is not required for family livelihood. She also
proposed a third category of self that combines a relational orienta-
tion with autonomy in a dialectical synthesis of the above two types
of self. The third category develops in the family model of emotional
interdependence seen particularly in the developed urban areas of
societies with collectivistic cultures where material intergenera-
tional interdependencies weaken but emotional interdependencies
continue. This allows for the introduction of an autonomy orienta-
tion to child rearing as complete intergenerational interdependence
is no longer required, and leaves out the total obedience and depend-
ence of the growing child. The “autonomous-related self” emerging
in the family model of emotional interdependence combines within
itself both collectivistic and individualistic elements at individual
level. There are other studies conducted after the introduction of
“autonomous-related self” by Sinha and Tripathi (1994). Kagit-
cibasi, Sunar and Bekman (1988) have provided further evidence
for this proposal in low-income areas of Istanbul. Consistent with
the above ﬁndings, Phalet and Claeys (1993) also found combined
preferences among modern urban Turkish youth for both loyalty
and self-realization. This study also included Belgian youth, and in
contrast, self-realization preferences alone were found out among
them. Studying the Turkish university students in Ankara, Aygun-
Karakitapoglu and Imamoglu (2001) suggested that family environ-
ment shapes self-development in terms of both autonomy and
relatedness in the Turkish culture. Similarly, Karadayi’s (1996),
study which included youth from different levels of socio-economic
status and education, found that young Turkish people became
autonomous in their attitudes, values and behaviors while keeping
300 UNSAL YETIM
their relatedness with their families. Therefore, since esteem needs
and motivations of individuals are closely related to the notion of
self, these features could be quite different according to I-C.
Lucas et al. (1996) demonstrated that self-esteem was correlated
with measures of subjective well-being. Myers and Diener (1995)
indicated that most of the people in western societies rate them-
selves as more intelligent and more competent than average people
in their societies. Studying with cross-cultural samples, Diener and
Diener (1995) found a 0.47 correlation between self-esteem and life
satisfaction in the sample of men and women from 31 different
countries. However, they found relatively small correlations for
Turkish university students (0.35 for women, 0.38 for men). In addi-
tion, the results suggested that the more individualistic the nation,
the more powerful the relationship is between self-esteem and life
satisfaction. Thus it seems that the relationship between self-esteem
and life satisfaction may show variations depending on the levels of
Another important personality feature is the feeling of mastery.
Feeling of mastery is derived from personal sense of control on
life and from individuals’ perceptions about considering themselves
as initiator or cause of the life events (Gecas and Burke, 1995;
Wells and Marwell, 1978). Pearlin and Radabaugh (1978) deﬁned
the concept of mastery as the extent to which people feel to be in
control of the important circumstances in their life. After studying
adults, they found a signiﬁcant correlation between mastery and
If one wants to evaluate the methods of establishing control
in life from other points of view, then there are two different
kinds of control systems: First is the primary control, which is
deﬁned as making a direct individual effect on existing realities
as mentioned by Gecas and Burke (1995), and Wells and Marwell
(1978). The other is the secondary control, which means to establish
control in life by accommodating the existing realities. Weisz et al.
(1984) showed that primary control is important in the USA, which
depends on the individualistic orientation and that secondary control
is important in Japan which supposedly represents collectivistic
culture. It is also stated by Diaz-Guerrero (1979) that secondary
control is important in Mexican culture.
THE IMPACTS OF INDIVIDUALISM 301
Campbell (1981) obtained powerful evidence that mastery is
associated with subjective well-being. Perceptions of control can
also vary according to I-C. Sastry and Ross (1998), for example,
found that Asian Americans, Japanese, South Koreans, Chinese,
and Indians have lower levels of perceived control than Anglo-
Saxon Americans. Similar ﬁndings were achieved about minorities
in some western countries (Louden, 1978; Verkuyten, 1994). These
ﬁndings indicate that there is a strong emphasis on family and
group life in collectivistic cultures and the concept of “self” in these
cultures is regarded as less essential than it is in individualistic ones.
Consequently, a person’s desire for more control on their life is
considered as a norm violation in collectivistic cultures.
Findings of cross-cultural studies and local studies regarding the
status of ongoing Turkish cultural experience have been found to
contradict each other. For example, in a study recently conducted
(Suh et al., 1998), it is found that Turkish university students
scored 3.85 out of 10 on individualism. According to this ﬁnding,
it seems that Turkish students are in the same group with Taiwanese
(3.85), Brazilian (3.90), and Singaporean (3.50) students. Similarly,
according to the World Values Survey (1994), Turkish sample had a
score of 3.85 out of 10 on individualism and was in the same group
with Portuguese (3.85), Brazilian (3.90), Mexican (4.00), Latvian
(4.00), Estonian (4.00) and Nigerian (3.00) samples. In conclusion,
various cross-cultural studies (Bierbrauer et al., 1994; Diener and
Diener, 1995; Hofstede, 1991; Schwartz, 1994) show that Turkish
cultural orientation is basically collectivistic.
However, Turkish social psychologists pointed out that ongoing
cultural practices in Turkey are made up of both individualistic and
collectivistic trends and that Turkish cultural structure cannot be
merely classiﬁed as collectivistic or individualistic. For instance,
Goregenli (1997, 1995) and Uskul (1998) found that individu-
alism is pervasive especially among the urban, high educated and
young generations in Turkey. Imamoglu (1987) and Imamoglu and
Gultekin (1993) argued that Turkish culture cannot be evaluated as
merely collectivistic and they insisted that Turkish cultural exper-
ience include both individualistic and collectivistic features. Simi-
larly, in a study, which included urban university graduates from the
1970 and 1990 generations, Imamoglu and Aygun-Karakitapoglu
302 UNSAL YETIM
(1999) demonstrated that the two generations were similar in terms
of their terminal values, but the youth of the 1990 generation gave
relatively more importance to individualistic values than the 1970
generation. Kagitcibasi (1996a) whose concept of “autonomous-
related self” was outlined above indicated that changing soci-
eties like Turkey might become individualistic while keeping their
emotional relatedness and some collectivistic values.
This study is the ﬁrst research conducted on Turkish sample,
which examined the variables of individualism/collectivism,
mastery, and self-esteem as predictors of life satisfaction.
There are two goals of this study. The main aim of the present
study is to investigate the relationship between life satisfaction and
individualism-collectivism, self-esteem, and mastery in a sample of
Turkish university students and academicians. As mentioned, there
are two distinct pieces of evidence about the relationship between
life satisfaction and related variables for Turkish people. On one
hand, Diener and Diener (1995), Diener and Suh (1999), Hofs-
tede (1991), and many others found that Turkish people are mainly
collectivistic and their self-esteem and mastery levels are lower
than those of the people in individualistic cultures. On the other
hand, most of the Turkish social psychologists reported that Turkish
people have mixed orientations. So their self-esteem and mastery
levels may well be close to those of the people in western nations.
The second goal of the present study is to explore these contra-
dicting results in the context of life satisfaction. In accordance with
this second goal, a diverse socio cultural environment is chosen
to conduct this study. On one hand, this environment includes the
university students who are coming from rural, under-developed
regions of Turkey. These students are brought up by agrarian life
styles and collectivistic values. On the other hand, there are also
academicians who had their education either abroad or in Western
cities of Turkey. These academicians were brought up by modern,
urban life styles and individualistic values. It is thought that,
between academicians and students there is an intense interaction,
which shapes the university life. In this context, this study aims
to analyze the effect of such university life on both students’ and
academicians’ life satisfaction levels within the speciﬁed variables.
THE IMPACTS OF INDIVIDUALISM 303
According to the goals described above, two samples are chosen;
one is among Mersin University students, and the other is among
the academicians of the same university. In year 2001, there were
4400 undergraduate students enrolled at Mersin University. Four out
of ﬁve students at Mersin University come from either Eastern or
South-Eastern parts of Turkey where the social structure and rela-
tions are based on traditional and rural values. It was decided to
include the sophomore and junior students in the sample in order
to reﬂect the cultural change and interaction. At Mersin University,
the total number of sophomore and junior students who were raised
in Eastern, Southeastern, or East Mediterranean part of Turkey was
found to be 1400. Among this population, 420 students who were
enrolled in year 2001 were selected according to their faculties.
Answers from 32 students were found to be invalid. As a result,
388 students who were enrolled in year 2001 were in the ﬁrst
sample for this study. There are 780 academicians in the teaching
positions of Mersin University. After the initial screening of the
350 of these academicians, 308 academicians were included in this
study according to their faculty. The academicians graduated from
universities in either the largest cities of Turkey such as Istanbul,
Ankara, Izmir, or those from the United States of America or
The numbers of female and male student participants were equal
in both samples; in the student sample it was 194, and in the academ-
ician sample it was 154. The average age of the university students
was 19.5. The academicians’ sample had an average age of 30.4.
Students and academicians were chosen from faculty of arts and
science, administrative science, economics and engineering based
on the weighted ratio from the related population of the university.
The Individualism/Collectivism (INDCOL) Scale developed by
Hui (1988) was adapted to Turkish culture by Goregenli (1995).
INDCOL scale includes 6 subscales and 62 items, which are
evaluated on 6 points Likert type assessment system. The results
304 UNSAL YETIM
revealed high internal consistency and reliability (Hui, 1988; Gore-
genli, 1995, 1997). A short form of Goregenli’s (1995) adaptation
of INDCOL was constructed by selecting the 12 highest collec-
tivistic and 12 highest individualistic items. An example of the
collectivistic items is “I accept my family’s religion”. An example
of the individualistic items is “What happens to me is my own
doing”. The construct validity of this short form was analyzed by
examining a sample of 170 people with mixed professions and
socio economic strata. The result of the factor analysis which was
found by analyzing the chosen 24 items showed that 2 factors
explained the 59% of the variance (χ2= 588.06, df = 229, p<0.00).
This short scale was used to determine participants’ orientations to
Self-esteem was measured using Rosenberg’s (1965) Global
Self-Esteem Scale. The scale consists of ten items with four
response categories. Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale is scored by using
the Likert method, with scores ranging from “no, certainly not” (1)
to “yes, certainly” (5). The scale is adapted to Turkish culture by
Cuhadaroglu (1986) and showed a high level of test-retest reliability
(0.89) and criterion-related validity (0.71). The degree to which
participants feel a sense of mastery on their lives was measured
using a 4-item scale. The scale was based on existing scales from
Pearlin and Schooler (1978) and Phinney et al. (1996). The items of
this scale were “what happens to me in the future mostly depends
on me”, “I often feel helpless in dealing with problems of my
life”, “I can achieve anything if I want to”, and “In general, I
have my life under control”. The ﬁve response categories ranged
from “no, certainly not” (1) to “yes, certainly” (5). The scale was
adapted to Turkish culture and gained a medium level of relia-
bility (0.69). Using the scale, Werkuyten and Nkuee (1999) found
almost the same level of reliability (0.67). The construct validity
of the scale was analyzed by examining a sample of 170 people
with mixed professions and socio economic strata. The result of
the factor analysis revealed that single factor explained 38% of
the variance signiﬁcantly (χ2= 326.05, df = 2, p<0.00). The
Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener et al., 1985) was applied to
determine the respondents’ life satisfaction judgments. The scale is
combined for ﬁve uni-directional attitude expressions. Each expres-
THE IMPACTS OF INDIVIDUALISM 305
sion is evaluated based on a 7-points scale (1: strongly disagree
– 7: strongly agree). The scale is adapted to Turkish population
and Turkish form of this scale showed very high levels of alpha
(0.86) and test-retest reliability (0.73) (Yetim, 1993). Larsen et al.
(1983) found that all items of this scale showed high factor load-
ings on a single common factor and Yetim (1991) conﬁrmed these
Data were collected during normal class periods and from individual
sessions. During the administration of the materials, any questions
from the respondents were clariﬁed. The majority of participants
ﬁnished responding to the questionnaires in 15 to 20 minutes.
All statistical procedures were performed using SPSS 9.05 for
Windows. ANOVA, Pearson’s Correlation Analysis and logistic
regression analysis were used for analyzing the data. The reason
for choosing logistic regression was to assess the contribution of
the variables as predictors of life satisfaction. Logistic regression
is able to handle the violations of assumptions of the usual regres-
sion model (Tabaschnick and Fidell, 1996). Because the predictors
showed a linear regression in both samples separately, this linearity
was not viable due to the diverse cultural backgrounds and genera-
tional differences between the two samples of students and academ-
icians. This was the major reasoning behind the decision for using
logistic regression. Logistic regression would enable the researcher
to analyze both samples together without the restrictions of linearity.
Therefore, by identifying 2 levels of life satisfaction (high and low),
the distribution of 7-point life satisfaction scale was analyzed. 48%
of the sample was in the low life satisfaction and the remaining 52%
was in the high life satisfaction group. The mean of this distribution
was 4.23, and the median was 4.2. All respondents who rated their
perceived life satisfaction above 4.2 were considered the high life
satisfaction group; those with ratings below 4.2 were considered the
low life satisfaction group for both samples.
306 UNSAL YETIM
TABL E I
ANOVA Results According to Status Levels and Sex
Variables Female Female Male Male F(3,595)Eta2
students academi- students academi-
Life satisfaction 3.81b4.61a4.27ab 4.26b5.78∗∗ 0.070
Individualism 5.89 5.73 5.94 5.78 1.92 0.024
Collectivism 4.60ab 4.91a4.45b4.21b4.09∗∗ 0.051
Mastery 3.56b3.73ab 3.83a3.51b4.10∗∗ 0.051
Self Esteem 5.55 5.71 5.70 5.57 0.81 0.010
Note: Differences between means were probed via Newman-Keuls test.
Measures are scored such that higher means represent higher levels of perceived
life satisfaction, individualism, collectivism, mastery and self-esteem. Values
with the same subscript are not signiﬁcantly different from each other.
Table I shows ANOVA results where means of the variables are
compared according to sex and status levels. It was observed that the
means between the groups were signiﬁcantly differ for the variables
of life satisfaction, collectivism, and mastery. The difference in life
satisfaction is mainly the result of the differentiation of the means
of the female academicians group and the female students group
according to Newman-Keuls post-hoc test. Among the groups, the
female students’ mean score for life satisfaction was the lowest and
the female academicians’ mean score was the highest.
The variance of the female academicians’ group’s means score
and the male academicians’ group’s mean score caused the signiﬁ-
cant difference for collectivism among the groups. Among the
groups, the female academicians scored the highest and the male
academicians scored the lowest for collectivism.
When examining the mastery variable, it was observed that male
university students scored the highest and male academicians scored
the lowest. This shows that the difference in the mastery vari-
able is the result of the difference of the male university students’
group’s means score and the male academicians’ groups mean score.
THE IMPACTS OF INDIVIDUALISM 307
For the variables of individualism and self-esteem, no signiﬁcant
differences between the groups were observed.
When Eta values, which show the strength of the difference
between the means of the variables within each group, are examined,
it is observed that the variables of life satisfaction, collectivism, and
mastery are moderately strong (see Table I).
When Pearson’s correlation coefﬁcients are examined based on
sex and life satisfaction it is signiﬁcantly correlated with the vari-
ables. For the female group, the correlation between mastery and life
satisfaction was moderately positive; and between collectivism and
life satisfaction the correlation was negative. For the male group,
the correlations between mastery and life satisfaction, and also
between self-esteem and life satisfaction were moderately positive.
However, the male group’s correlation between life satisfaction and
collectivism was moderately negative. These ﬁndings reveal that the
higher the collectivism, the lower the life satisfaction is both in the
male and the female groups.
Some signiﬁcant correlations were observed in the female group
between the predictors. Among these, self-esteem and individu-
alism showed a moderately positive correlation whereas self-esteem
together with mastery showed moderately negative correlations with
For the male group, individualism showed moderately positive
correlations with both mastery and self-esteem. Consistent with the
above ﬁndings, collectivism revealed moderately negative correla-
tions with both mastery and self-esteem since individualism and
collectivism showed negative correlation.
The ﬁndings from both the male and female groups show that the
higher the collectivism, the lower the mastery and self-esteem (see
When the correlations are examined according to the status
levels, the ﬁndings show that life satisfaction is signiﬁcantly corre-
lated with all predictors for both academicians and university
students. In the university student group, life satisfaction is moder-
ately correlated with the predictors. University student group ﬁnd-
ings reveal that individualism is moderately correlated with both
mastery and self-esteem. For academicians, there is a moderately
strong positive correlation between life satisfaction and mastery
308 UNSAL YETIM
TABL E I I
Correlations between the Variables According to Sex
1. Life Satisfaction — 0.23∗–0.27∗∗ 0.45∗∗ 0.23∗
2. Individualism 0.30∗∗ —–0.24∗∗ 0.29∗∗ 0.38∗∗
3. Collectivism –0.47∗∗ –0.33∗∗ —–0.33 –0.44∗∗
4. Mastery 0.36∗∗ 0.38∗∗ –0.32∗∗ —0.11
5. Self-esteem 0.33∗∗ 0.41∗∗ –0.41∗∗ 0.03 —
Signiﬁcance for two tailed.
Note: Bold values represent the correlations for females.
Correlations between the Variables According to Status Levels
1. Life satisfaction — 0.40∗∗ –0.21∗0.58∗∗ 0.61∗∗
2. Individualism 0.30∗∗ —–0.15 0.46∗∗ 0.40∗∗
3. Collectivism –0.47∗∗ –0.26∗∗ —–0.26∗–0.41∗∗
4. Mastery 0.36∗∗ 0.38∗∗ –0.32∗∗ —0.47∗∗
5. Self-esteem 0.33∗∗ 0.41∗∗ –0.41∗∗ 0.03 —
Signiﬁcance for two tailed.
Note: Bold values represent the correlations for academicians.
and also self-esteem. In both groups, collectivism is negatively
correlated with life satisfaction. Similar to the ﬁndings based on
sex, it is also found that individualism had positive correlations
with self-esteem and mastery. Since collectivism and individualism
are negatively correlated, collectivism is found to have negative
correlations with self-esteem and mastery (see Table III).
A direct logistic regression analysis was performed on life satis-
faction as being the outcome and the ﬁve predictors of individu-
alism, collectivism, mastery, self-esteem and sex/status level. –2LL
for only constant model was 325.57 and for the full model with all
ﬁve predictors it was 220.59. The difference between these models
THE IMPACTS OF INDIVIDUALISM 309
TABL E I V
Logistic Regression Analysis of Life Satisfaction
Variables B Wald Signiﬁcance R Ex. β
Individualism 1.383 13.07 0.001 0.1622 4.33
Collectivism –0.964 11.67 0.004 –0.1365 0.382
Mastery 0.942 10.48 0.001 0.1132 2.56
Self-esteem 1.39 49.09 0.000 0.2668 4.02
Female student –0.73 7.78 0.01 –0.1124 0.421
Female academician –1.59 2.08 0.556 –0.0000 1.147
Male student 0.21 0.09 0.77 0.000 1.23
Constant –18.22 48.25 0.000 — —
was 104.98 (df = 7, p<0.0000). It was determined that predictors
classiﬁed subjects with low life satisfaction with an accuracy of
85.1% and with high life satisfaction with an accuracy of 72.8%.
Generally these predictors classiﬁed the whole sample with an
accuracy of 79.1%. These results show that predictors contribute
meaningfully to life satisfaction.
When Wald values are studied, except than the groups of the
female academicians and the male students, all predictors explain
life satisfaction signiﬁcantly. In addition to these, when odd ratios
are examined, a person with a high score of individualism is
approximately three times more likely to have a high life satisfac-
tion. Similarly, a person with a high self-esteem score is approxi-
mately three times more likely to be in the group of people with
high life satisfaction. An individual with a high score of mastery is
approximately one and a half times more likely to be in the group
of people with high life satisfaction. However, a person with a high
score of collectivism is more likely to be in the group of people
with low life satisfaction with a probability of approximately 60%.
Female students compared with the other groups are more likely to
have low life satisfaction with a probability of approximately 68%
(see Table IV).
310 UNSAL YETIM
This study, which aims to predict life satisfaction of individuals
from two different cultural backgrounds by using the predictors of
individualism, collectivism, self-esteem, and mastery, has reached
multidirectional meaningful results. First of all, it is found that high
life satisfaction is interrelated with high levels of individualism,
self-esteem and mastery for the sample in this study. Collectivism
on the other hand, predicts low levels of life satisfaction for the
subjects in this research. These ﬁndings point out that especially
male students become more autonomous and more individualistic
at Mersin University. Male university students having the highest
mastery level and relatively lower levels of collectivism compared
with the other groups support this analysis. Male students are the
ones that are mostly affected by the university environment, which
is liberating and autonomous. In this process, male students take
the advantage of the privilege that is granted by the traditional
gender roles in the eastern part of Turkey. These traditional gender
roles state that males should dominate and be the master of their
own lives. During their university educations, by observing the
academicians and using them as role models, male students learn
to support a political or social view, to be goal-directed and to
determine individualistic preferences for themselves. These ﬁnd-
ings reveal that young male students become more independent and
more individualistic. At this point, it is observed that traditional
gender roles and the modern university environment interact with
each other in a positive direction where both of them tell the male
students to become more self-oriented. The results of the studies
conducted by Goregenli (1995), Uskul (1998), and Imamoglu and
Aygun-Karakitapoglu (1999) where they state that individualism
is pervasive among the young, urban and the educated people in
Turkey are consistent with this study’s ﬁndings about the male
On the other hand, there is a different situation for the female
university students. The traditional gender roles and the socializ-
ation values of the females are highly collectivistic especially in
the eastern parts of Turkey. For example, females are expected
to care for their parents, never to break off their close relation-
ships with their families even if they are married, to manage
THE IMPACTS OF INDIVIDUALISM 311
cultural practices and ceremonies (wedding, circumcision, funerals),
to protect the dignity of their family (not to engage in sexual activity
before marriage), and to be well-mannered (Yetim, 2001). The only
possible way for the females to become autonomous is to be enrolled
in a university. The entrance process to the universities in Turkey
is highly competitive and harsh. Due to the poor economic condi-
tions and inequalities between the regions, it is relatively difﬁcult
for the youth from the eastern and southeastern parts of Turkey
to become enrolled in a university. Conservative Islamic values,
which are held in higher esteem in those regions of Turkey, restrict
the girls from getting involved in interpersonal relationships and
from behaving freely. Under these circumstances, females regard
the university education as their only way to escape from those
restraints. Apparently, getting enrolled in the university did not bring
the expected result for the female students. According to the ﬁnd-
ings of this study, female students had high scores of collectivism
and the lowest levels of life satisfaction. This might be the result
of female students internalizing the restrictions and the external
controls acting on them. Since they never had similar experiences
before, female students cannot behave as freely as the male students
and they ﬁnd it difﬁcult to make decisions independently during
their university lives. This situation may raise a conﬂict for the
female students. It can be stated that this conﬂict is the product
of two life styles one of which is based on relatively autonomous,
independent behavior and tolerance of sexual freedom, and the other
of which is based on restrictions and limitations on behaviors and on
intolerance of sexual activities. In other words, traditional gender
roles and socialization values contradict the university’s modern
values. All these factors make it difﬁcult for the female students
to adapt to the new environment of the university and as a result this
causes the low level of life satisfaction among the female students.
Among the academicians, it was observed that males have the
lowest level of collectivism, and they had slightly higher levels
of individualism. In addition male academicians had low levels of
mastery. On the other hand, female academicians had the highest
levels of life satisfaction. Although they had high levels of collec-
tivism, according to the logistic regression analysis, the probability
of the female academicians having high individualism, mastery
312 UNSAL YETIM
and self-esteem is expected to be high. As can be seen, logistic
regression and ANOVA results reveal conﬂicting ﬁndings about
the female academicians. There is the question of how come the
female academicians have the highest life satisfaction and a high
collectivism level at the same time. There is not any answer to this
question with the available ﬁndings. It might be that female academ-
icians have liberated the traditional women roles by becoming
competent in their area of study together with their mastery exper-
iences. Female academicians might have succeeded to blend this
liberation with the functional collectivistic values. For example, they
might have integrated the functional collectivistic features such as
emotional support from the family and cooperation with family and
group – with those of individualism like self-esteem and mastery. It
is possible to answer this question by introducing another question:
Why do male academicians have the lowest level of collectivism and
the lowest level mastery at the same time? It seems that traditional
sex roles encourage males to be dominant, to take initiative, and to
control their lives. This result is conﬁrmed in the male university
students’ sample. However, it is obvious that male academicians
lose their mastery for some reason. It should be noted that the ﬁnd-
ings might be the result of the characteristics of the sample and of
other factors that cannot be controlled.
In order to generalize the ﬁndings of this study, other research in
Turkey must be conducted that will conﬁrm the results of this study.
Their explanations would be available about the male academicians’
mastery level, which is related to management. In Turkey, males
mainly dominate university management positions. Management is
an important source for males to gain prestige. In Turkey, in order
to come to a management position, it requires to be compatible with
the central system. It is not possible to overcome the central hier-
archical bureaucracy, which determines the policy in public arena
by individual effort and mastery. Thus, male academicians who
want to gain power achieve this goal by accommodating the central
authority. However, since secondary control is used, this might
result in loss of mastery and a decrease in life satisfaction. It should
be noted again that this comment is just a suggestion and there is no
direct ﬁnding that tests this suggestion. As a result, it is necessary
THE IMPACTS OF INDIVIDUALISM 313
to conduct new studies that will investigate the relationship between
individualism, collectivism and life satisfaction.
Results of the correlation analysis reveal that in all groups of
male/female and university students/academicians, life satisfaction
is positively correlated with individualism, self-esteem and mastery
and negatively correlated with collectivism. Individualism is posi-
tively and collectivism is negatively correlated with self-esteem and
mastery. These ﬁndings are consistent with the logistic regression
In conclusion, individualism, self-esteem and mastery are strong
predictors of life satisfaction. All these results do not support
the ﬁndings of cross cultural studies. This study did not conﬁrm
the ﬁndings of Suh et al. (1998), Hofstede (1991), World Values
Survey (1994) and varying others, which state that Turkish culture
is basically collectivistic. On the contrary, this study states that
collectivism predicts low life satisfaction and individualism predicts
high life satisfaction. If collectivism were really a trend that is
accepted and encouraged by the society, the individual and the
culture, then one would expect it to increase life satisfaction. Again,
the result of Diener and Diener (1995), which states that self-esteem
is high in individualistic cultures, is not supported by this study.
Strong evidence is obtained through studies about the fact that both
individualism and high self-esteem is affective on life satisfaction
in cultures like Turkey where “emotional relatedness” of “related
autonomous self” is highly pervasive.
This study emphasizes the need to reevaluate the extent to which
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