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Examining International Students’ Psychosocial Adjustment to Life in the United States

By Jing Zhang


This dissertation, containing two journal-formatted manuscripts, examines factors associated with international students' psychosocial adjustment to life in the United States. In the first manuscript, I systematically reviewed 64 studies reporting predictors of international student adjustment, which were published in English language peer-reviewed journals from 1990 to 2008. I summarized predictors by adjustment outcomes and assessed the methodological quality of individual studies. In the second manuscript, I investigated mechanisms through which acculturation influenced psychosocial adjustment of Chinese international students, by electronically surveying a sample of 508 Chinese international students from four universities in Texas. Specifically, the mechanisms investigated in this report refer to the mediating and moderating effects of social interaction and social connectedness with host nationals upon the acculturation-adjustment linkages. Results portrayed in the first manuscript showed stress, social support, English language proficiency, region/country of origin, length of residence in the United States, acculturation, social interaction with Americans, self-efficacy, gender, and personality were among the most frequently reported predictors of international students' psychosocial adjustment. The mean methodological score of the reviewed studies was 6.25 (SD=1.8; maximum possible score=11). The reviewed studies overcame selected methodological limitations pointed out by Church in his review, but show room for continued improvement. Results portrayed in the second manuscript showed social connectedness with Americans mediated the links between adherence to the host culture (acculturation dimension) and psychosocial adjustment. Social interaction with Americans moderated the association between adherence to the home culture (acculturation dimension) and depression. Findings from this dissertation have implications for health promotion research and practice. First, this dissertation calls for a revision in the sojourner adjustment framework to address the shared elements underlying both adjustment domains (psychological and sociocultural). Second, more studies are needed to a) examine macro-level factors and currently under-investigated micro-level factors, b) test theories that integrate micro- and macro-level factors, c) examine mediation and moderation effects, and d) systematically employ longitudinal designs and comparison groups. Third, health promotion professionals would do well to address predictors and mechanisms found in this dissertation when developing evidence-based interventions for international students

Topics: international students, adjustment, acculturation, psychosocial, depression
Year: 2010
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