Coping with perceived discrimination: A longitudinal study of sojourners in China

Abstract

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.

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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

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Keywords

  • Acculturation
  • Cultural fit
  • Acculturation orientation
  • Longitudinal research design
  • Perceived discrimination
  • Primary and secondary coping
  • Psychological adaptation
  • Sociocultural adaptation