Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology

First Advisor

Laura R. Johnson

Second Advisor

Stefan E. Schulenberg

Third Advisor

Todd A. Smitherman

Abstract

Over recent decades, the number of international students enrolled in American universities has continued to increase. International students face a number of challenges in adapting to a new cultural milieu. The process of transitioning from one cultural environment to another is known as acculturation. Previous studies of acculturation have identified acculturative stress, English proficiency, and social support as key factors associated with the overall adjustment of international students (Mori, 2000; Pedersen, 1991; Sandhu, 1995, Sandhu & Asrabadi, 1998). Of particular significance for international students are the challenges stemming from pedagogical differences between foreign and U.S. institutions of higher learning. Despite an extensive body of acculturation research, few studies have provided an in-depth examination of the academic component of acculturation. The present study sought to extend the work in this area by examining factors impacting academic adjustment. Predictors of academic adjustment of international students were investigated with a sample of 122 undergraduate and graduate international students at a mid-sized university in northern Mississippi. Based on Berry (1997) and Ward's (1993) acculturation models, it was hypothesized that academic adjustment and psychosocial adjustment would be predicted by different variables. Hierarchical regressions revealed length of stay in the U.S., English proficiency, and help-seeking were the strongest predictors of academic adjustment, whereas age and attachment to the university community predicted psychological adjustment. Psychological adjustment was also significantly associated with acculturation strategy and cultural distance. Results support Ward and Kennedy's proposed distinction between the psychological and socio-cultural components of cultural adjustment and suggest the need for targeted support interventions to facilitate adjustment in each domain.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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