Sense of coherence SOC was initially described by Aaron Antonovsky in the late 1970s [1], to evolve substantially afterwards over the subsequent 4 decades. The sense of coherence was viewed first as an “individual property” [1]. However, a decade later, the concept was widened to include the nuclear family of the individual [2]. It was further expanded by [2] to focus on one’s awareness of the level of pervasive, enduring, and dynamic feelings.

Furthermore, the twenty-first century research extended sense of coherence to cover wider organizations in which the individual and family would interact, affect, and affect by, for instance their workplace organization [3]. Stronger sense of coherence meant better physical and mental health and more use of mature defence mechanisms [4]. Strong sense of coherence has a role in mediating recovery from substantial stressors such as poly-victimization [5].

The principal theoretical framework that underpins the measurement power of SOC scale is the so-called Generalized Resistance Resource (GRR). GRR is a term proposed by Antonovsky [1979] [1], well prior to the development of the Sense of Coherence model. GRR constitutes the adaptive coping abilities of the individual and society and, hence, it potentiates the development of a sense of coherence. GRRs facilitate person’s ability to rebound. The twelve GRR factors, upon which the SOC-29 and the SOC-13 were designed comprise a range of cultural, societal, philosophical and biopsychological resources individuals could use [6].

Based on his broad definition of the sense of coherence, Antonovsky [1987] [2] proposed a 29-item scale for its measurement. He called it the Orientation to Life Questionnaire with the subscale of comprehensibility, the cognitive dimension, to be measured collectively by 11 items. Comprehensibility was defined by Eriksson [2017] [7] as “the extent to which one perceives internal and external stimuli as rationally understandable, and as information that is orderly, coherent, clear, structured rather than noise—that is, chaotic, disordered, random, unexpected, and unexplained”. The context of oneself and the role one plays in that context would be far more understandable should one have mastered the faculty of building a structure out of chaos. Clearly, the ability to manage stresses is substantially improved once one makes sense of them. Therefore, comprehensibility was regarded by researchers as a prerequisite for adaptive coping [7].

The subdimension of manageability, the behavioural dimension, must be measured collectively by 10 items. Manageability can be defined as “the degree to which one feels that there are resources at one’s disposal that can be used to meet the requirements of the stimuli one is facing” [7]. Such resources are divided into two categories: formal (such as public services and charitable entities) and informal (family and friends, for instance).

The remaining 8 items were set to measure the meaningfulness sub-score, which constitutes the motivational dimension. Meaningfulness is composed of motivation, commitment, dedication, will for energy spending, and the emotional meaning of being able to solve every-day problems. Meaningfulness views daily problems as “challenges” rather than “burdens” [7].

SOC-13 is a 13-item self-report measure developed by [Antonovsky., 1993] [8] from the longer SOC-29 scale to briefly assess the extent of emotional control. The SOC-13, given its strong psychometric properties, was used extensively in several settings [9]. All items are answered on a 7-point Likert scale over a semantic differential scale with two extreme anchoring phrases. Five items (namely, items 1, 2, 3, 7, and 10) are reversed in scoring. The total score would, hence, range between 13 and 91. Low scores indicate low/weak sense of coherence, and high scores mean high/strong sense of coherence. There are 5 comprehensibility, 4 manageability, and 4 meaningfulness items, however, the scale gives a single score of sense of coherence. Example items for comprehensibility include, “Do you have the feeling that you are in an unfamiliar situation and don’t know what to do?’’ and “Does it happen that you have feelings inside you would rather not feel?”. Items identifying manageability include, “Do you have the feeling that you are being treated unfairly?” and “Has it happened that people whom you counted on disappointed you?”. Meaningful items include, “Do you have the feeling that you don’t really care about what goes on around you?” and “How often do you have the feeling that there’s little meaning in the things you do in your daily life?”. To clarify further, the comprehensibility (consists of items: 2, 6, 8, 9, and 11), manageability (consists of items: 3, 5, 10, and 13), and meaningfulness (consists of items: 1, 4, 7, and 12).

The concept of sense of coherence was examined in several contexts. A recent study, for instance, examined the association between the sense of coherence and maternal attachment to their babies [10]. Sense of coherence was associated positively with both maternal attachment to the newly born offspring and the acceptance of maternal role.

Many studies attempted to examine the psychometric properties of the SOC-13 in its various formats. The SOC-13 was first proposed by Antonovsky [1987] [2]. The SOC-13 questionnaire was tested and validated in several languages. The factor structure was shown to be consistent [11]. Recently, an orphan study [12] attempted to explore the validity of an Arabic version of SOC-13 among children in the UAE. They found the Cronbach’s alpha to be good at 0.75. No attempt was made to examine the factor structure in depth. This is what we intend to do in the current investigation. In-depth factor structure analysis in adults living in Saudi Arabia.

Only a dearth of studies explored the psychometric properties of the SOC-13 (or its SOC-29 parent) or even used it in the Arabic language. On the other hand, several global studies examined multicultural adaptations of the SOC-13. The remaining question is whether the thirteen items that constitute the SOC-13 scale should be regarded as a collective single dimension as envisioned by the originator of the scale [Antonovsky 1987] [2] and suggested by the findings of a chain of studies [8], or to approve of the three-dimensional structure supported by many other studies on the same SOC-13 scale [13].

Al-Yateem et al. [2020] [12] realized how the wellbeing of Arabic-speaking adolescents would be improved substantially if their sense of coherence was supported to grow. In their study, they set to evaluate the reliability and validity estimates of the Arabic adaptation of the SOC scale. They also wanted to contribute normative values for the SOC scale in the Arabic speaking United Arabic Emirates UAE population. Encouragingly, they established a very good internal consistency estimate for the SOC questionnaire, with a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.75. They set the normative SOC average at 57.4, pioneering the SOC research among Arabic communities.

Lerdal et al. [2017] [14] surveyed (n = 428) irritable bowel syndrome patients using the Norwegian version of the SOC-13. They adopted a Rasch analysis to examine a range of psychometric properties that included internal validity, functioning, differential item functioning, person-response validity, and person-separation reliability. They found that the SOC-13 functions with good and related to the collapsing categories at the low end of the seven-item Likert style of the scale. They found that two items did not constitute a good fit in the total SOC-13, namely, item 1: “Do you have the feeling that you don’t really care about what goes on around you” and item 5: “Do you have the feeling that you are being treated unfairly?”. Removal of both substantially improved the overall fit. SOC-13, in their sample, did not satisfy characteristics of person-response validity or one-dimensionality.

A recent Slovenian study [15] attempted to evaluate the psychometric properties of SOC-13. The investigation included (n = 134) Multiple Sclerosis patients. With a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.83, they found the SOC-13 to be of good overall internal consistency. However, the reliability was not so good for the three subscores, therefore the authors encouraged the use of the overall summary score for the SOC-13 rather than summary statistics for the less reliable subscores. Manageability dimension had a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.66, improved to 0.69 for the meaningfulness dimension, and to 0.79 for the comprehensibility dimension. The three-factor structure provided an acceptable fit to the data, as the RMSEA was 0.059. The three factors intercorrelated substantially. However, the confirmation of three-factor structure required the authors to correlate the residuals of two-item pairs. They allowed the residuals of (Item 2: “Has it happened in the past that you were surprised by the behaviour of people whom you thought you knew well?” and Item3: “Has it happened that people whom you counted on disappointed you?”) to correlate, as they addressed participants’ expectations regarding the people around them. They also allowed residual correlations of (item 4: “Until now your life has had clear goals and purposes” and item 13: “How often do you have feelings that you’re not sure you can keep under control?”) as they were both concerned with the management of life situations in terms of clarity of goals and control of feelings.

A group of researchers from India’s Mangalore’s University [16] explored the psychometric characteristics of SOC-13 among second-year degree students. They focused their assessment on its comprehensiveness, appropriateness, understandability, and relevance. The Cronbach’s alpha estimate of the internal consistency was 0.76. Estimate for split-half reliability was 0.71 and the estimate for Guttman split-half reliability was 0.70. SOC-13 was found to have good Test–retest reliability (0.71, P < 0.01). They found that 41% of the SOC-13 variability can be explained by the three-factor solution.

In Australia, a study examined the psychometric properties in a group of (n = 718) pregnant women [17]. That was based on the established positive association between sense of coherence and childbearing health [18]. They estimated the mean SOC-13 score at 67.5 (SD = 10.9). They were faced with difficulty in establishing the construct validity of the SOC 13 was difficult to establish. Construct validity was defined during their investigation to mean “the ability of an instrument to measure an abstract concept”. They decided to remove four items before they were content with the construct validity of the SOC-13 scale, namely, items 2, 3, 7, and 9. They noted sound criterion validity for the SOC-13 before and after removal of the four problematic items, as well as internal reliability.

One of the earliest attempts at using Arabic SOC scale among Arabic speaking communities was the study conducted by Cohen and Savaya [2003] [19]. They survey 306 divorced Muslim Arabs in Israel. Their results indicated that the sense of coherence is closely linked to mental health, however, they remain independent constructs. These were certainly important findings. However, the authors did not report on the psychometric properties of the SOC-29 scale they used. They focused the analysis primarily on the correlation between sense of coherence and mental health among the divorced Arab community who participated in the study.

Very recently, Abu-Kaf and Khalaf [2020] [20] evaluated the relationship between depression and acculturative stress in (n = 170) Arab undergraduate students. They used the SOC-13 scale to assess the protective impact of the sense of coherence on the depression-acculturative stress association. They viewed the sense of coherence as a healthy way of seeing life and coping with its stresses [8]. Arab students in higher academic years demonstrated significantly better sense of coherence and less depressive symptoms. Sense of coherence was negatively associated with avoidant coping and depressive symptoms but was positively associated with active coping styles. They demonstrated that the sense of coherence constituted an indirect link between depressive symptoms and active coping (in male students) and avoidant coping (among female students).

A sample of (n = 566) dentistry students in Istanbul University completes the SOC-13 scale [21]. The median score was found to be 56, with scores ranging between 22 and 91. Clearly, a strong sense of coherence was associated positively with better oral health-related behaviours and lower levels of stress.

A Farsi adaptation of the SOC-13 was validated favourably among a sample of (n = 375) Iranian undergraduate students [22]. The estimate for the internal consistency of the Farsi SOC-13 was good (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.77). The correlation between test-retests was statistically significant (r = 0.66). Factor analysis extracted four factors, which explained 53.49% of the total variability.

The main objective of our current investigation is the comprehensive psychometric evaluation of the Arabic version of SOC-13 in terms of underlying three-factor structure, internal consistency, and reliability. We also aimed at evaluating the effect of background demographic factors on the SOC-13 in a large-scale sample for the Saudi public.

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