Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

International Student Sociocultural Adaptation: Gossip and Place Attachment Contributions

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

International Student Sociocultural Adaptation: Gossip and Place Attachment Contributions

Article excerpt

This correlational study at a Midwestern university used hierarchical regression, with a primarily Asian international student sample (N = 293), to examine gossip functions, the tendency to gossip, and place attachment as contributing uniquely to international student sociocultural adaptation. The tendency to gossip and place identity attachment were found to contribute positively to the sociocultural adaptation of international students (ISs), and the influence gossip function and place dependence attachment contributed negatively. Because the study focused on gossip as a cultural learning mechanism, the findings may be relevant to future research and mental health counseling services that facilitate immigrant and IS sociocultural adaptation.


Acculturation is an important topic in mental health counseling (Chung, Bemak, & Wong, 2000; Miranda & Matheny, 2000). For instance, acculturation-related social support has been associated with less depression and anxiety among immigrants (Hovey & Magana, 2000) and international students (Sumer, Poyrazle, & Grahame, 2008). Leaving one's home country to live abroad requires adapting to the host social and cultural environment (Ng, 1998). This acculturation, specifically sociocultural adaptation, involves becoming confident in completing social and daily living tasks alone in the new country. For international students (ISs) studying on a U.S. campus, sociocultural adaptation involves learning local cultural values and the skills needed to manage everyday activities, such as making friends and getting around in the community.

Sociocultural adaptation is facilitated when ISs are exposed to U.S. values and social norms through interactions with people from the host country. However, like other immigrants, ISs interact mostly in communities of people from their own country (Rajapaksa & Dundes, 2002). Although conational social support is important to sociocultural adaptation (Misra, Crist, & Burant, 2003), it is not clear how social interaction influences adaptation. As a social interaction, gossip was the most frequent form of daily talk in a college student sample (Goldsmith & Baxter, 1996). Further, gossip, which occurs in all cultures (Dunbar, 2004), is a way to learn social and cultural rules (Baumeister, Zhang, & Vohs, 2004). Social interaction, as an aspect of sociocultural adaptation, may also be influenced negatively by emotional responses (e.g., homesickness) that accompany moving to the U.S. (Rajapaksa & Dundes, 2002). These adjustment reactions are consistent with normative signs of disrupted attachment, which is negatively linked to learning and adaptive responses (Bowlby, 1988). People are usually attached to their home country (Low & Altman, 1992), and this place attachment may influence sociocultural adaptation elsewhere. For example, the preference of ISs for conational social interaction, including gossip, may function as an attachment behavior that would facilitate adaptation. This thinking is consistent with research indicating that attachment to parents influences IS adaptation (Wang & Mallinckrodt, 2006). Nonetheless, we could find no research that addresses how gossip or IS place attachment contributes to sociocultural adaptation. To develop new knowledge that may enable mental health counselors (MHCs) to better understand and help the acculturation of immigrants, specifically ISs, we examined how gossip and place attachment contribute to IS sociocultural adaptation.


As illustrated by this fictitious example, "Our friend, Mahima, is dating, even though she shouldn't.... Her parents are arranging her marriage," gossip refers to two or more people exchanging evaluative information about an absent third person (Foster, 2004). Although harmful if used as indirect aggression or self-enhancement (McAndrew, 2008), gossip can be useful to social group bonding (Dunbar, 2004) and to acquiring cultural and social information (Baumeister et al. …

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