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Relationship between Social Problem Solving, Anxiety and Empathy among Adolescents in Hungarian Context

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Abstract

Research on social problem solving have been focusing on age, gender and cultural differences and development for a very long time. It is a widely known fact that the development of social problem solving depends on many mediator (e.g., super traits, anxiety, emotions) and moderator variables (e.g., family and school background). International studies agree that social problem solving has a profound influence on success in personal life, on mental health (e.g., Elliott et al., 2006), on academic achievement (e.g., Rodriguez-Fornells & Maydeu-Olivares, 2000), and, in turn, on the functioning of different social groups and society as a whole (e.g., Lindsay et al., 2011). Several studies have pointed out that mental health and school success also have an impact on social problem solving (e.g., McMurran & McGuire, 2005). The aim of our study was to examine the relationship between social problem solving and some mediator and moderator variables among 12- and 16-year-old Hungarian students (N = 445). We examined the relationship between social problem solving, state and trait anxiety and empathy, and we also intended to find relationship between social problem solving and some family background variables (e.g., family structure, parents’ educational level). We used the short version of SPSI–R (2002, Social Problem Solving Inventory–Revised, D’Zurilla, Nezu, & Maydeu-Olivares – factors: positive problem orientation, negative problem orientation, rationality, impulsivity, avoidance); Davis’s IRI (1980, Interpersonal Reactivity Index – factors: perspective taking, fantasy, empathic concern, and personal distress) and Spielberger’s State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (1983). All of these measurements showed good reliability indices. According to the results, positive problem orientation was more typical of 12-year-olds and negative problem orientation, rationality, state anxiety, perspective taking and empathic concern were more common among 16-year-olds. The fitting of impulsivity and trait anxiety, and avoidance and trait anxiety are more solid in 16-year-olds. Regardless of age, the degree of negative problem orientation and avoidance is higher among those with increased anxiety as compared to those with lower levels of anxiety. Perspective taking has a strong connection to positive problem orientation and rationality in almost every age, while personal distress has greater influence only on negative problem orientation at the age of 16. The family structure and parents’ educational levels are the most profoundly influential in terms of social problem solving.

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