Across-time change and within-country variance in cultural tightness-looseness in Estonia
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An article by Gelfand and colleagues (2006) brought the construct of cultural tightnesslooseness to the attention of social scientists once again. Tight cultures have strong social norms and low tolerance of deviant behaviour, whereas loose cultures have weak norms and high tolerance of different behaviour. The aim of the current study was to examine the across-time change (over ten years) as well as the within-country variance in tightnesslooseness in Estonia. It was found that the tightness score increased significantly in Estonia from 2002 to 2012, but the change was rather small. A significant within country variance in 2002 (females had slightly higher tightness scores than males and people who had at the most primary or secondary education reported higher tightness than respondents who had higher education) had disappeared by 2012. An item-level analysis revealed that both in 2002 and 2012 people believed that there are many social norms in Estonia and inappropriate behaviour will be disapproved by others, but in 2012 respondents reported that the norms were clearer; there was more general agreement about appropriate vs. inappropriate behaviour and expected compliance with social norms was higher. The possible reasons for strengthened tightness in 2012 compared with 2002 include the end of the transition phase in Estonia and the adoption of new norms through integration with Europe. Such homogenisation of tightness levels across different social subgroups is in line with previous research showing identity clarification and homogenisation in post-transition countries. Further research about the temporal stability and intracultural variation of tightness-looseness in more politically stable but also more heterogeneous countries is needed in order to confirm and extend our current results.