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Acculturative stress and coping for Chinese, Indonesian and Australian students

Gonzales, H.ORCID: 0000-0002-5480-1802 (2009) Acculturative stress and coping for Chinese, Indonesian and Australian students. In: 40th International Meeting. Society for Psychotherapy Research (SPR), 24-27 June 2009, Santiago de Chile.


This is a longitudinal study aiming to ascertain the influence of ethnic identity, daily hassles, social network of support, coping strategies, English language proficiency, self-rating of health, and demographic variables on levels of acculturative stress and overall distress experienced by international students from mainland China and Indonesia. Students from these countries (and a comparison group of Australians students) completed measures on the above constructs at different stages of their sojourn to Australia, namely, at entry, four months after entry and eight months after entry. A grand total of 974 students completed the entry questionnaire (277 Indonesians, 558 Chinese and 139 Australians), 291 students completed the four months follow up questionnaire and 148 students completed the three waves of assessment (41 Indonesian, 69 Chinese and 38 Australian students). The international students were recruited from 17 Australian universities. The Australian sample was recruited at Macquarie University. A separate sample of 161 students from Universitas Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia completed a translated version of the questionnaire to ascertain the equivalence of Indonesian students living in Australia with students attending Universitas Indonesia. This study used both hard copy and web-based delivery mode of the questionnaire to students participating in this study. A sub-sample of 20 Indonesian and Chinese international students completed a one-to-one in-depth interview to investigate their acculturative stress experiences further.This study supported the stress and coping model, confirming that sojourners experienced moderate to high levels of stress from their initial interaction with the host society (Ward, Okura, Kennedy, & Kojima, 1998). Both Indonesians and Chinese experienced more distress than local Australian students across the three waves of assessment. These findings refute the traditional U-curve assumption of cultural shock, which argues that sojourners go through different phases in their process of adjustment to the host society, comprising honeymoon, disillusionment and readjustment phases. Chinese students scored higher on ethnic identity than Indonesians, and this was reflected in their lower levels of distress, particularly when they first entered the Australian culture. Contrary to traditional views, the Chinese were more willing than Australians to admit suffering emotional difficulties, and both Indonesian and Chinese students were willing to seek professional help for support with their emotional difficulties. Overall, high daily hassles and acculturative stress were the strongest predictors of high levels of distress. Higher avoidance and self-blame coping strategies were strong predictors of high distress across the three waves of assessment. Other predictors of high distress were language other than English as preferred language in Australia, using less support-seeking coping, less problem-focused coping, more willingness to seek professional help for emotional difficulties, and more religious coping. These findings contribute to the literature of stress and coping and have implications for both counselling international students and policy development for international offices in higher education.

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