Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Length of Residence, Cultural Adjustment Difficulties, and Psychological Distress Symptoms in Asian and Latin American International College Students

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Length of Residence, Cultural Adjustment Difficulties, and Psychological Distress Symptoms in Asian and Latin American International College Students

Article excerpt

The authors examined cultural adjustment and psychological distress issues in 190 Asian and Latin American international college students. Findings revealed that Latin American students reported higher levels of psychological distress than did their Asian peers. Moreover, length of residence in the U.S. was negatively associated with psychological distress symptoms, and acculturative distress and intercultural competence concerns were positively related to psychological distress in both groups. Implications of the findings are discussed.

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Increasing numbers of Asian and Latin American individuals have immigrated to the United States to study in colleges and universities in recent years, a trend that is paralleled by the emergence of research related to the cultural adjustment experiences of these populations (e.g., Abe-Kim, Okazaki, & Goto, 2001; Casas & Pytluk, 1995; Roysircar-Sodowsky & Maestas, 2000; Sodowsky, Kwan, & Pannu, 1995). Despite the increasing number of investigations, comparatively few empirical studies have examined the relationship between cultural adjustment difficulties and psychological distress in Asian and Latin American students. This study explored the relationships among length of stay in the U.S., cultural adjustment difficulties, and psychological distress in a sample of Asian and Latin American students attending college in the U.S. Prior research has indicated that relocating to a new culture can be difficult for many individuals (Inman, Ladany, Constantine, & Morano, 2001; Sodowsky & Lai, 1997). Cultural adjustment concerns may represent particular challenges to international college students who are attempting to adapt to a foreign environment. In fact, the cultural adjustment difficulties and challenges experienced by some international college students may result in the development of mental health symptomatology such as depression, anxiety, and social alienation (Sue & Sue, 2003; Uba, 1994). Moreover, some routine stressors of college students (e.g., academic pressures, financial difficulties, loneliness, and health-related concerns) may exacerbate potential cultural adjustment difficulties (Hayes & Lin, 1994).

Previous investigations have also documented that many potential acculturative factors (e.g., length of time in the U.S., generational status, and involuntary versus voluntary immigration) may relate to the cultural adjustment experiences of Asian and Latin American international college students (Chung, Bemak, & Wong, 2000; Harris-Reid, 1999; Orozco, 1999; Rodriguez, Myers, Morris, & Cardoza, 2000; Sodowsky, Lai, & Plake, 1991). In particular, Gard et al. (2001) reported that greater length of time in the U.S. and lower levels of acculturation (i.e., incorporation of beliefs, values, and behaviors of the host culture into the culture of origin and vice versa) predicted increased use of coping strategies and intrapersonal and social networks to modulate cultural adjustment among Asian students. Furthermore, Mehta (1998) found that greater length of time in the U.S. predicted greater psychological adjustment among Asian immigrants.

Sodowsky and Lai (1997) reported that cultural adjustment difficulties could be conceptualized into two broad types: acculturative distress and intercultural competence concerns. Acculturative distress refers to general and cultural stress reactions associated with transitioning to a new culture. Intercultural competence concerns denote individuals' problems relating to other people in the context of a new culture. In their sample of 200 Asian immigrants and sojourners, Sodowsky and Lai found that lower acculturation levels were related to greater amounts of acculturative distress. Furthermore, other investigators have reported that individuals who are more acculturated tend to experience greater levels of adjustment to their host culture because of their increased familiarity with the norms of that culture (Mouw & Xie, 1999). …

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