The current research examines cross-cultural adaptation of sojourners by focusing on an understudied population -- international students in China – and how they coped with perceived discrimination. It had two overall aims: 1) to test whether secondary coping would be effective in reducing the negative effects of perceived discrimination, based on research on cultural fit and goodness of fit; 2) to further explore the moderating role of host culture orientation in the effectiveness of secondary coping. A 90-day longitudinal study was conducted on first- and second-year international students in China (N = 130) via questionnaires assessing perceived discrimination, coping strategies (primary and secondary coping), and adaptation outcomes (sociocultural adaptation, psychological adaptation, and perceived stress). As expected, for sociocultural adaptation over time, a three-way interaction was found (host orientation × perceived discrimination × secondary coping). Low levels of secondary coping and high host orientation exacerbated the negative effects of perceived discrimination. No three-way interaction was found regarding psychological adaptation or perceived stress over time; instead, there were significant two-way interactions between coping and perceived discrimination. High levels of secondary coping reduced the negative effects of perceived discrimination on perceived stress over time, whereas high levels of primary coping buffered the negative effects on psychological adaptation over time. As a whole, we found some evidence supportive of both cultural fit and goodness of fit as well as contradictory evidence. We provide possible explanations for the contradictory findings and discuss the limitations of this study and the complexity of effective coping during sojourner adaptation.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
We’re sorry, something doesn't seem to be working properly.
Please try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, please contact support so we can address the problem.
Aguinis, H., Beaty, J. C., Boik, R. J., & Pierce, C. A. (2005). Effect size and power in assessing moderating effects of categorical variables using multiple regression: A 30-year review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 94–107.
Aiken, L. S., West, S. G., & Reno, R. R. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Sage.
Aldwin, C. M. (2007). Stress, coping, and development: An integrative approach. New York: Guildford.
Berry, J. W. (1997). Immigration, acculturation, and adaptation. Applied Psychology, 46(1), 5–34. https://doi.org/10.1080/026999497378467.
Berry, J. W. (2006). Acculturative stress. Handbook of multicultural perspectives on stress and coping, 287–298. https://doi.org/10.1007/0-387-26238-5_12.
Berry, J. W., Phinney, J. S., Sam, D. L., & Vedder, P. (2006). Immigrant youth: Acculturation, identity, and adaptation. Applied Psychology, 55(3), 303–332. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-0597.2006.00256.x.
Björkman, I., & Schapp, A. (1994). Outsiders in the middle kingdom: Expatriate managers in Chinese-Western joint ventures. European Management Journal, 12(2), 147–153. https://doi.org/10.1016/0263-2373(94)90005-1.
Bodomo, A. (2015). Africans in China: Guangzhou and beyond—Issues and reviews. The Journal of Pan African Studies, 7(10).
Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Weintraub, J. K. (1989). Assessing coping strategies: A theoretically based approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 267–283. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1687.
Champoux, J. E., & Peters, W. S. (1987). Form, effect size, and power in moderated regression. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 60, 243–255.
Chang, W. C., Chua, W. L., & Toh, Y. (1997). The concept of psychological control in the Asian context. In K. Leung, U. Kim, S. Yamaguchi, & Y. Kashima (Eds.), Progress in Asian social psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 95–117). Singapore: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Chaplin, W. F. (1991). The next generation of moderator research in personality psychology. Journal of Personality, 59, 143–178.
Chiang, S. Y. (2015). Cultural adaptation as a sense-making experience: International students in China. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 16(2), 397–413. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-014-0346-4.
Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 385–396. https://doi.org/10.2307/2136404.
Compas, B. E., Connor-Smith, J. K., Saltzman, H., Thomsen, A. H., & Wadsworth, M. E. (2001). Coping with stress during childhood and adolescence: Problems, progress, and potential in theory and research. Psychological Bulletin, 127(1), 87–127. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.127.1.87.
Conway, V.J., & Terry, D.J. (1992). Appraised controllability as a moderator of the effectiveness of different coping strategies: A test of the goodness of fit hypothesis. Australian Journal of Psychology, 44(1), 1–7.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2002). Overview of self-determination theory: An organismic dialectical perspective. Handbook of self-determination research, 3–33.
Demes, K. A., & Geeraert, N. (2014). Measures matter: Scales for adaptation, cultural distance, and acculturation orientation revisited. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45(1), 91–109. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022113487590.
Demes, K. A., & Geeraert, N. (2015). The highs and lows of a cultural transition: A longitudinal analysis of sojourner stress and adaptation across 50 countries. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109(2), 316–337. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000046.
English, A.S., & Worlton, D.S. (2017). Coping with uprooting stress during domestic educational migration in China. Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology, 11.
English, A. S., Allison, J., & Ma, J. H. (2016). Understanding Western students: Motivations and benefits for studying in China. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 4(8), 44–55. https://doi.org/10.11114/jets.v4i8.1499.
Heppner, P. P., Weisz, J. R., Neville, H. A., & Kanagui-Mu-oz, M. (2014). A cultural and contextual model of coping. In F. T. L. Leong, L. Comas-Díaz, G. C. Nagayama Hall, V. C. McLoyd, & J. E. Trimble (Eds.), APA handbook of multicultural psychology, Vol. 2: Applications and training. APA handbooks in psychology (pp. 83–106). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/14187-005.
Jasinskaja-Lahti, I., Liebkind, K., & Solheim, E. (2009). To identify or not to identify? National disidentification as an alternative reaction to perceived ethnic discrimination. Applied Psychology, 58(1), 105–128. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-0597.2008.00384.x.
Kuo, B. C. (2013). Collectivism and coping: Current theories, evidence, and measurements of collective coping. International Journal of Psychology, 48(3), 374–388. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207594.2011.640681.
Kuo, B. C. (2014). Coping, acculturation, and psychological adaptation among migrants: A theoretical and empirical review and synthesis of the literature. Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine: An Open Access Journal, 2 (1) ,16 33. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/21642850.2013.843459, 16 33.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal and coping. New York: Springer.
Lu, Y. L. (2010). Children's information seeking in coping with daily-life problems: An investigation of fifth-and sixth-grade students. Library & Information Science Research, 32(1), 77–88. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lisr.2009.09.004.
Macrodimitris, S. D., & Endler, N. S. (2001). Coping, control, and adjustment in type 2 diabetes. Health Psychology, 20(3), 208–216. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-622.214.171.124.
Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98(2), 224–253. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.98.2.224.
McCarty, C. A., Weisz, J. R., Wanitromanee, K., Eastman, K. L., Suwanlert, S., Chaiyasit, W., & Band, E. B. (1999). Culture, coping, and context: Primary and secondary control among Thai and American youth. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 40(5), 809–818. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-7610.00496.
McClelland, G.H., & Judd, C.M. (1993). Statistical difficulties of detecting interactions and moderator effects. Psychological bulletin, 114(2), 376.
Morling, B., & Evered, S. (2006). Secondary control reviewed and defined. Psychological Bulletin, 132(2), 269–296. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.132.2.269.
Morling, B., & Evered, S. (2007). The construct formerly known as secondary control: Reply to skinner (2007).
Noh, S., & Kaspar, V. (2003). Perceived discrimination and depression: Moderating effects of coping, acculturation, and ethnic support. American Journal of Public Health, 93(2), 232–238. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.93.2.232.
Noh, S., Beiser, M., Kaspar, V., Hou, F., & Rummens, J. (1999). Perceived racial discrimination, depression, and coping: A study of southeast Asian refugees in Canada. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 40, 193–207. https://doi.org/10.2307/267348.
Park, C.L., Folkman, S., Bostrom, A. (2001). Appraisals of controllability and coping in caregivers and HIV+ men: Testing the goodness-of-fit hypothesis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical psychology, 69(3), 481.
Park, C.L., Armeli, S., Tennen, H. (2004). Appraisal-coping goodness of fit: A daily internet study. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(5), 558–569.
Park, C. L., Sacco, S. J., & Edmondson, D. (2012). Expanding coping goodness-of-fit: Religious coping, health locus of control, and depressed affect in heart failure patients. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 25(2), 137–153. https://doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2011.586030.
Pascoe, E. A., & Smart Richman, L. (2009). Perceived discrimination and health: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 135(4), 531–554. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016059.
Persike, M., & Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2016). Stress with parents and peers: How adolescents from 18 nations cope with relationship stress. Anxiety Stress and Coping, 29(1), 38–59. https://doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2015.1021249.
Romero, A. J., Martinez, D., & Carvajal, S. C. (2007). Bicultural stress and adolescent risk behaviors in a community sample of Latinos and non-Latino European Americans. Ethnicity and Health, 12(5), 443–463. https://doi.org/10.1080/13557850701616854.
Rothbaum, F., Weisz, J. R., & Snyder, S. S. (1982). Changing the world and changing the self: A two-process model of perceived control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42(1), 5–37. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.199.
Rothbaum, F., Morelli, G., & Rusk, N. (2011). Attachment, learning, and coping. Advances in culture and psychology, 153–215.
Sam, D. L., & Berry, J. W. (Eds.). (2006). The Cambridge handbook of acculturation psychology. Cambridge University Press. doi:https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511489891.
Sawaumi, T., Yamaguchi, S., Park, J., & Robinson, A. R. (2015). Japanese control strategies regulated by urgency and interpersonal harmony: Evidence based on extended conceptual framework. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 46(2), 252–268. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022114563749.
Schwartz, S. J., Unger, J. B., Zamboanga, B. L., & Szapocznik, J. (2010). Rethinking the concept of acculturation: Implications for theory and research. American Psychologist, 65(4), 237–251. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019330.
Searle, W., & Ward, C. (1990). The prediction of psychological and sociocultural adjustment during cross-cultural transitions. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 14(4), 449–464. https://doi.org/10.1016/0147-1767(90)90030-Z.
Selmer, J., & Shiu, L. S. (1999). Coming home? Adjustment of Hong Kong Chinese expatriate business managers assigned to the People's Republic of China. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 23(3), 447–465. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0147-1767(99)00005-X.
Spector, P. E., Sanchez, J. I., Siu, O. L., Salgado, J., & Ma, J. (2004). Eastern versus Western control beliefs at work: An investigation of secondary control, socioinstrumental control, and work locus of control in China and the US. Applied Psychology, 53(1), 38–60. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-0597.2004.00160.x.
Szabo, A., Ward, C., & Jose, P. E. (2016). Uprooting stress, coping, and anxiety: A longitudinal study of international students. International Journal of Stress Management, 23, 190–208. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039771.
Szabo, A., English, A. S., Zhijia, Z., Jose, P., Ward, C., & Jianhong, M. (2017). Is the utility of secondary coping a function of ethnicity or the context of reception? A longitudinal study across Western and eastern cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 48(8), 1230–1246. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022117719158.
Thurber, C.A., & Weisz, J.R. (1997). You can try or you can just give up: The impact of perceived control and coping style on childhood homesickness. Developmental Psychology, 33(3), 508.
Trommsdorff, G., & Essau, C. A. (1998). Japanese and German adolescents' control orientation: A cross-cultural study. In G. Trommsdorff, W. Friedlmeier, & H.-J. Kornadt (Eds.), Japan in transition: Sociological and psychological aspects (pp. 198–211). Lengericht: Pabst Science Publishers.
Tsai, J. L., Knutson, B., & Fung, H. H. (2006). Cultural variation in affect valuation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(2), 288–307.
Van De Vijver, F. J., & Phalet, K. (2004). Assessment in multicultural groups: The role of acculturation. Applied Psychology, 53(2), 215–236. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-0597.2004.00169.x.
Vitaliano, P. P., DeWolfe, D. J., Maiuro, R. D., Russo, J., & Katon, W. (1990). Appraised changeability of a stressor as a modifier of the relationship between coping and depression: A test of the hypothesis of fit. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(3), 582–592. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.522.
Wang, K.T., Heppner, P.P., Fu, C.C., Zhao, R., Li, F., & Chuang, C.C. (2012). Profiles of acculturative adjustment patterns among Chinese international students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(3), 424.
Ward, C. (2001). The A, B, Cs of acculturation. In The handbook of culture and psychology (pp. 411–445).
Ward, C. (2004). Psychological theories of culture contact and their implications for intercultural training and interventions. Handbook of intercultural training, 3, 185–216. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452231129.n8.
Ward, C., & Geeraert, N. (2016). Advancing acculturation theory and research: The acculturation process in its ecological context. Current Opinion in Psychology, 8, 98–104. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.09.021.
Ward, C., & Kennedy, A. (1993). Psychological and socio-cultural adjustment during cross-cultural transitions: A comparison of secondary students overseas and at home. International Journal of Psychology, 28(2), 129–147. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207599308247181.
Ward, C., & Kennedy, A. (1996). Crossing cultures: The relationship between psychological and socio-cultural dimensions of cross-cultural adjustment.
Wei, M., Ku, T.-Y., Russell, D. W., Mallinckrodt, B., & Liao, K. Y.-H. (2008). Moderating effects of three coping strategies and self-esteem on perceived discrimination and depressive symptoms: A minority stress model for Asian international students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 55, 451–462. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0012511.
Wei, M., Liao, K. Y. H., Heppner, P. P., Chao, R. C. L., & Ku, T. Y. (2012). Forbearance coping, identification with heritage culture, acculturative stress, and psychological distress among Chinese international students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(1), 97–106. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025473.
Wen, W., Hu, D., & Hao, J. (2017). International students' experiences in China: Does the planned reverse mobility work? International Journal of Educational Development, 61, 204–212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedudev.2017.03.004.
Zakowski, S. G., Hall, M. H., Klein, L. C., & Baum, A. (2001). Appraised control, coping, and stress in a community sample: A test of the goodness-of-fit hypothesis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 23(3), 158 165–158 165. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15324796ABM2303_3.
Conflict of Interest
Authors declare no conflict of interest.
Ethical Approval and Informed Consent
All procedures and measures were approved by the recommendations of the Institutional Review Board of the Psychology Department of the university with written informed consent from all participants. All subjects gave written informed consent in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic supplementary material
About this article
Cite this article
English, A.S., Zhang, R. Coping with perceived discrimination: A longitudinal study of sojourners in China. Curr Psychol 39, 854–869 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-00253-6
- Cultural fit
- Acculturation orientation
- Longitudinal research design
- Perceived discrimination
- Primary and secondary coping
- Psychological adaptation
- Sociocultural adaptation