The Sojourner Omnibus
The three-class solution was preferred as the final model given its smaller BIC and aBIC indices and greater entropy value when compared with the equivalent two-class solution. Finally, the linear solution is selected over the quadratic as there is very little change or improvement in the fit statistics in the latter. Importantly, these changes in stress had a smaller range than for the sojourners. Three class representation of change in perceived stress over time for controls.
The pattern of stress experienced by participants over the course of this study was explored using LCGA to model multiple growth curves depicting varying patterns of change in stress over time, relative to baseline stress in both the sojourning and nonsojourning control group. Specifically, while some participants showed marked increases in stress on arrival to the host country i. While this effect has been discussed theoretically and anecdotally in previous literature Oberg, these findings suggest that such an affective reaction may not be very common. In fact, the majority of participants reported only small shifts in their stress levels from pretravel to arrival, in both directions i.
In the control group sample we found little interindividual variation in stress trajectories over time. Indeed approximately two thirds of the control sample reported no shift from baseline levels of stress over time, while the remaining third was split between those showing an increase in stress over time relative to baseline and those showing a decrease in stress relative to baseline.
Given that we have no additional information about the control group in terms of the life experiences they went through over the course of the study we cannot speculate as to the explanation for the deviations in stress in the third of the sample that did shift from baseline. Naturally, some of the variation in stress can be explained by individual difference variables. In addition, the role of cultural adaptation and coping strategies during the sojourn is also examined.
Research in nonsojourning contexts has also demonstrated the buffering effects of extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to experience for stress and the risk effect of neuroticism e. We anticipate that the relationship between personality and stress in a sojourning context will be consistent with previous findings.
The Narrative of Sojourner Truth.
Specifically, we expect that participants with higher levels of extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness will report lower levels of stress abroad than those with lower levels on these personality dimensions. Conversely, we anticipate that participants reporting higher levels of emotionality pretravel will report higher levels of stress abroad. With regards to honesty-humility, we expect that participants with lower levels on this factor will report higher levels of stress, due the known association between low levels of honesty and dysfunctional interpersonal traits Holden et al.
Research on the role of empathy in cultural adjustment has not previously separated perspective taking and empathetic concern components. However, based on more general research findings we anticipate that greater perspective taking will be associated with participants experiencing less or decreasing stress over time abroad Galinsky et al.
For empathetic concern and its association with stress we do not have any clear predictions, as previous research has found this factor to be associated with both desirable and undesirable interpersonal styles Davis, Cultural adaptation and its association with stress has been well documented. We expect therefore that a similar pattern of effects will emerge in our study such that approach and acceptance strategy use will be related to lower levels of stress, while avoidance, self-blame, and substance abuse will be related to higher levels of stress.
Evidence in the field for the role of social support strategies in moderating stress has been less consistent than research on other coping strategies. Importantly however, such studies have failed to distinguish between support received from people locally in the host country from support received from people back home. This distinction is particularly relevant today, with the ease of communication across large geographical distances. In this study we do distinguish between close support from people in the host country and distant support from people in the home country and expect the former to be associated with lower stress and the latter with higher levels of stress.
This would align with findings showing the detrimental effect of contact with home nationals while abroad Geeraert et al. We first use multilevel modeling to assess in the sojourner sample as a whole, the relationship between these explanatory variables and stress. Second, we employ multinomial logistic regression to examine differences in the explanatory variables across the five groups of participants experiencing different stress trajectories, as established in the earlier LCGA analysis.
We expect the results of both of these analyses to be largely consistent with one another. Whereas the former analysis has the advantage of greater statistical and explanatory power, the latter allows for summarizing and describing the data in the form of profiles for distinct groups. Independent sets of models were constructed for demographic variables, personality factors, interpersonal reactivity, cultural adaptation, and coping variables.
As a comparison, and where appropriate, equivalent analyses were also carried out for the control group. All analyses were conducted following the procedures suggested by Hox and using MLwiN 2. The association between stress t3 to t6 and a number of demographic variables was analyzed first. The explanatory ability of each demographic variable was examined separately in a two-level multilevel model.
First, a basic model was constructed which included time and lagged stress Model 1. The results of the 11 multilevel models are summarized in Table 4. The number of languages spoken by participants was also related to stress, but only when controlling for the cross-level interaction with time.
Speaking more languages was related to less stress but only at the start of the sojourn. Lastly, having previous travel experience was marginally but negatively associated with stress. Specifically, sojourners reporting higher levels of honesty-humility, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness reported lower levels of stress while abroad. Higher levels of emotionality and openness to experience however were related to higher levels of stress abroad.
As a set, these models suggest that the relationship between personality and stress was relatively stable over the course of the sojourn. The equivalent analysis was conducted for control participants, and revealed that stress was positively associated with emotionality and negatively associated with extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
Only perspective taking emerged as an independently significant explanatory variable however, indicating that sojourners who reported higher levels of perspective taking experienced less stress. Thus, the relationship between stress and perspective taking did not change over time. In the equivalent analysis for control participants there was no effect of the interpersonal reactivity variables.
The association between both sociocultural and psychological adaptation with stress was examined next. Both types of adaptation were negatively related to stress. That is, higher levels of psychological and sociocultural adaptation were significantly associated with lower levels of stress overall. This interaction indicates that the relationship between psychological adaptation and stress is particularly pronounced at the earlier timewaves, but weakens somewhat over time.
All coping strategies were independently significant explanatory variables in the model, with the exception of substance abuse. More specifically, whereas the approach, acceptance, and close support strategies were all associated with lower levels of stress; the avoidance, self-blame, and distant support strategies were associated with higher levels of stress. Interestingly, and as predicted, whereas support in the host country close support was associated with lower levels of stress, support from the home country distant support was associated with higher levels of stress.
Controlling for these interactions, the substance abuse strategy now emerged as being significantly associated with stress. Importantly, however, the associations between stress and the coping strategies were qualified by time. This was the case for all strategies, except approach coping. The relationship between stress and these coping strategies was generally stronger at the start of the sojourn than at the later waves. The equivalent analyses for control participants revealed that stress was positively associated with avoidance, substance abuse, and self-blame coping, and negatively associated with approach and acceptance coping.
Having examined the explanatory ability of demographics, personality, interpersonal reactivity, cultural adaptation, and coping strategies on stress in separate model sets, we decided to bring all of these together into a single composite model. The composite model makes it possible to examine the explanatory ability of individual variables while controlling for all other variables. Consistent with the earlier demographics analysis, there was a significant effect of sex, prior travel experience, and the interaction between time and number of languages spoken.
For personality, a negative association with stress remained for extraversion, and a positive association for emotionality and openness to experience. There were no significant effects for the interpersonal reactivity variables. For cultural adaptation, the only effect to remain was the negative relationship between psychological adaptation and stress. In contrast to the earlier analysis, time no longer qualified this effect of adaptation. In terms of coping, the relationship with stress was positive associated with high stress for avoidance, self-blame, substance abuse, and distant support, and negative associated with low stress for acceptance, and close support.
As before all of these effects were qualified by time, with the exception of approach coping, such that the association between coping strategy use and stress was strongest at the earlier than later timewaves. Above we established the explanatory role of a number of key individual difference variables in accounting for variations in stress over the course of the sojourn across the sojourner sample as a whole variable-centered approach.
In this section we examine these associations in a different way, by exploring individual differences between participants belonging to the five distinct stress trajectory groups. Specifically, we examined whether membership to these trajectory groups could be accounted for by individual differences in variables measured both before traveling and after arrival to the host country. Using multinomial logistic regression, with class membership as a categorical dependent variable, we examined whether individual differences in personality, interpersonal reactivity, cultural adaptation, and coping strategies could account for the likelihood of experiencing certain stress and adjustment trajectories, controlling for baseline stress.
Where a particular explanatory variable is found to significantly improve model fit, we inspected class comparisons to determine how the likelihood of experiencing different stress trajectories differs as a function of the variable. Separate sets of analyses were conducted for personality, interpersonal reactivity, cultural adaptation, and coping variables see Table 9. An examination of differences across classes indicates that with higher levels of emotionality at baseline, participants were more likely to experience a reverse J-curve pattern of stress while abroad.
With higher levels of reported extraversion however, participants were more likely to experience a resilience pattern of stress over all other patterns. A minor relief pattern of stress was also more likely than a mild stress, reverse J-curve or inverse U-curve pattern for participants with higher levels of extraversion. Comparisons of stress trajectory classes revealed that with higher reported empathetic concern pretravel, the more likely participants were to experience a resilience pattern of stress over a minor relief, mild stress, or inverse U-curve pattern of stress.
Mild stress and reverse J-curve patterns were also more likely to be experienced than inverse U-curve patterns in participants with higher levels of empathetic concern pretravel. Participants were found to be more likely to experience a reverse J-curve pattern of stress than any other pattern the lower their psychological adaptation was on entry to the host country.
Participants with low sociocultural adaptation were also more likely to experience a reverse J-curve pattern of stress than a mild stress, minor relief, or resilience pattern. With higher levels of psychological adaptation, a resilience pattern was significantly more likely than any other stress trajectory. With higher levels of sociocultural adaptation a resilience pattern was more likely than all others but the minor relief pattern. Notably, reverse J-curve and inverse U-curve patterns were found to be more likely than other patterns in participants reporting greater use of avoidance strategies, self-blame, and support from people back home.
In contrast, participants were found to be more likely to experience a resilience trajectory than any other the more they employed acceptance coping and close support.
In the case of close support, however, a minor relief pattern was just as likely as a resilience pattern. Finally, a person-centered composite model was conducted and was found to largely replicate the variable-centered findings. However, none of the personality variables remained independently significant in the person-centered composite model. That none of the personality variables are independently significant in this model in contrast to the variable-centered analysis may be due to the relatively weaker statistical power of the person-centered analysis.
In this section we examined associations between sojourners stress over time and personality, interpersonal reactivity, cultural adaptation, and coping strategies as potential moderators of stress. These associations were examined through both a variable-centered longitudinal multilevel modeling and a person-centered approach multinomial logistic regression. Despite the differences between these two methods, the conclusions we can draw from their results are largely convergent. With regards to personality, our results were consistent with predictions and previous research Cheung Chung et al.
Emotionality was found to be associated with overall increased levels of stress and stress trajectories characterized by peaks in stress. Extraversion had a buffering effect, such that participants with higher levels on this variable tended to report lower levels of stress in general and stress trajectories characterized by drops in stress relative to pretravel.
In addition, honesty-humility, agreeableness, and conscientiousness were also found to be associated with lower overall levels of stress, although this only materialized in the variable-centered analyses—probably due to the increased statistical power of analyzing the sample as a whole, rather than as split into groups. Although low levels of honesty have been linked with dysfunctional interpersonal traits Holden et al.
Finally, and contrary to predictions, openness to experience was found to be associated with increased levels of stress. One speculative explanation may be that sojourners with greater openness to experience are more likely to put themselves in novel situations that they may find challenging or stressful. Further, openness to experience is believed to produce the most inconsistent results of all the main personality dimensions. Thus, it is difficult to interpret our findings with the openness factor in this case.
With regards to the interpersonal reactivity variables, in the variable-centered analysis perspective taking was found to be significantly associated with lower stress, while empathetic concern was not. The reverse was found for the person centered analysis in that empathetic concern was significantly associated with trajectories with drops in stress but perspective taking was not. This might imply that these associations may not be as stable or robust.
Indeed, both effects disappeared when controlling for other factors such as emotionality or extraversion. In both types of analysis sociocultural and psychological adaptation were found to be associated with stress. Psychological adaptation was revealed to have a particularly powerful association with stress even when controlling for all other explanatory variables, suggesting that feeling psychologically adapted to the culture is strongly tied to sojourners perception of stress while abroad. Interestingly, the association between psychological adaptation and stress was more pronounced at the earlier waves compared with the later waves.
This is understandable as sojourners experience a number of significant life changes in the first weeks of their sojourn. Later on, after the sojourner has become more accustomed to the host culture, those factors influencing stress may be less concerned with cultural adjustment. The coping strategies that participants employed while abroad was found to be highly relevant to stress across all types of analyses. Conversely, higher levels of stress were related to greater use of avoidance, self-blame, and distant support strategies.
A marginal effect of substance abuse was also found, suggesting that greater use of substances as a means to cope is maladaptive and related to higher levels of stress abroad. It is worth noting the findings reported in this section could only be revealed through the longitudinal design of this study. Specifically, the association between personality variables recorded pretravel remained stable over time, that is, the relationship was the same at both the later and earlier timewaves.
This was not the case for psychological adaptation and coping strategies, whose associations with stress were most marked at the earlier waves and then diminished over time. The final series of analyses involves examining the relationship between stress levels and stress trajectory group membership and two key behavioral indicators of mal adjustment: In many cases, moving host family is a sign of failure to adjust to the new family environment and while most participants stay with one family for the duration of their exchange, some do move families multiple times.
Similarly, most participants stay for the full term of their intercultural exchange but some sojourners, experiencing difficulties in adjustment, return home early. It is anticipated that incidence of family change and early return will vary as a function of stress during the exchange. Specifically, participants reporting higher levels of stress relative to baseline or those belonging to groups characterized by increases in stress on entry to the host country are expected to be more likely to change host families and to return home early than those characterized by decreases in stress or stable stress.
The variable family change provides a count of the number of families a sojourner has stayed with. A variable resulting from such a counting process has a Poisson distribution, 13 and thus the data was analyzed by means of a Poisson regression. Average stress over the duration of the sojourn t3 to t6 was computed for each sojourner and then entered in to the regression model with the family change variable as the dependent variable.
We next examined the role of coping strategies in the occurrence of family change by means of a Poisson regression. Apart from close support coping, these relationships remained when controlling for average levels of stress. Finally, we examined the relationship between stress trajectories and family change, by means of a Poisson regression. Finally, the reverse J-curve and inverse U-curve groups did not differ from one another, nor did the mild stress and minor relief groups from one another. The event of early sojourn termination was analyzed by means of a binary logistic regression.
An odds ratio of 1. For instance, participants with an average stress score at the 10th percentile have a 1. Crucially, this pattern of results was identical when controlling for baseline stress. The relationship between the number of family changes and early return was examined next by means of a logistic regression. These results were also replicated when controlling for both average and baseline stress. Finally, we examined the incidence of early return across the stress trajectories using binary logistic regression. Comparisons of the groups revealed that participants who experienced a reverse J-curve or inverse U-curve pattern of stress and adjustment were significantly more likely to return home early than participants who experienced a mild stress, minor relief, or resilience pattern.
Individuals reporting a resilience pattern had significantly lower early return rates than individuals in all of the other groups. All other comparisons were not significant, that is early return rates did not differ significantly between the reverse J-curve and inverse U-curve groups, nor between the mild stress and minor relief groups. Overall, the results of the early return and family change analyses demonstrate that average levels of stress while abroad are significantly associated with family changes and early return rate.
In addition, the types of coping strategies that participants employed were also related to family changes, such that greater use of acceptance coping and seeking support from people in the host country was related to fewer family changes and greater use of approach coping and seeking support from people in the home country was related to more family changes.
While it would be interesting to look at the association between coping and early return, statistical limitations due to the small proportion of students returning home early means this was not possible. With regards to the stress trajectories and their relationship with family change and early return, the pattern of findings seem to suggest that there are three distinguishable classes in relation to these variables. Overall, the resilient group appears to differ from all others, the J and U-curve classes differ from all others but not from each other and likewise the mild stress and minor relief groups differ from all others but not from each other.
In this article we built upon a large body of theory and research regarding the stress and adjustment patterns of intercultural travelers, their antecedents, and consequences Hechanova-Alampay et al. We presented a series of analyses from a longitudinal study of approximately 2, intercultural exchange students who traveled from over 40 different countries and spent a year abroad in one of over 50 different host destinations.
Taking advantage of the longitudinal and multinational nature of this study and the presence of a control group, we examined a number of central research questions to the acculturation field. The results of these examinations present a number of theoretical contributions which are discussed below. In this study we recorded stress on multiple occasions over time, in both a sojourning and a control group. This design enabled us to examine whether sojourners typically experience greater variation in stress over time than nonsojourning peers. This highlights the uniqueness of the sojourn in terms of its psychological impact and supports the examination of the nature of this impact as an important area of enquiry.
In this article we demonstrated that a single overarching description of the course of adjustment over time may be inadequate and instead were able to identify five patterns which described the adjustment of different subsets of sojourners. We detected a number of patterns that have been observed previously, such as an inverse U-curve Hechanova-Alampay et al. This highlights that reactions to an intercultural relocation are not uniform and that earlier theoretical and methodological approaches have not captured this.
Further, theorists have proposed that relocating to a new culture will inevitably lead to stress and strain Oberg, but our research shows that this is not always the case. Indeed, the large majority of our sample, those in the mild stress or minor relief groups appeared only to be marginally affected by the move, at least in terms of their stress levels.
It would be interesting therefore to see what patterns emerge in different sojourning or immigrant samples, with the application of such person-centered analyses. We would expect similar trajectories as found in this study to emerge, but that the proportion of individuals experiencing the different patterns would vary.
In an immigrant sample for example, a greater proportion of individuals may be expected to experience inverse U-curve or reverse J-curve patterns characterized by substantial peaks in stress, as the relocation experience of immigrants involves relatively more personal, emotional, and financial upheaval than that experienced by exchange students. Following the identification of different stress reactions to the relocation we examined the role of personality, empathy, cultural adaptation, and coping strategies in moderating stress over time.
Looking at personality alone, the results suggest a buffering effect on stress of honesty-humility, extraversion, and conscientiousness but a risk effect of emotionality. Similarly, for the interpersonal reactivity variables alone, perspective taking was shown to be adaptive in the variable-centered analysis and empathetic concern in the person-centered analysis. The fact that alternative variables were found to be significant across the two types of analysis may suggest that perspective taking is more powerful in explaining variation in stress levels in general over the sojourn but that empathetic concern is related more to the particular course of increases or decreases in stress over time, that is its contribution to stress may be less uniform over time.
For the coping variables alone, their associations with stress were found to vary over time, such that the adaptive role of acceptance coping and seeking support from people in the host country, and the maladaptive role of avoidance, seeking support from people back home, and self-blame were particularly pronounced in the early waves, but less so as the sojourn progressed. Controlling for all explanatory variables revealed robust and stable effects of emotionality, extraversion, psychological adaptation, avoidance coping, acceptance coping, seeking support from locals and self-blame.
Robust time varying effects were found for both close and distant support and self-blame. Interestingly, the relationship between support and stress was different depending on the proximity of social support.
Omnibus. II, vol. 13
Seeking support from people remotely back in the home country was related to having higher stress in general, while seeking support from people local in the host country was related to having lower stress in general. This finding is also in line with previous research showing that too much contact with home nationals can hinder cultural adjustment Geeraert et al. Overall, these findings are consistent with theory and previous research Carver et al. However, this research provides a valuable contribution to the literature by demonstrating these effects across a multinational sojourner sample from both a sending and hosting perspective and using longitudinal data which has enabled us to demonstrate the robustness and stability of these associations over time.
Lastly, we found that different patterns of stress over the exchange were related to key behavioral indicators of adjustment, with higher levels of stress relating to increased likelihood of changing host families and returning home early. The types of coping strategies that sojourners used were also found to be associated with family changes. Interestingly, the approach strategy was related to more family changes, which may be because participants using the approach strategy took action when experiencing difficulty adjusting to one family and thus moved to another. Having behavioral measures make these findings particularly strong and novel.
This study has a number of important strengths that make this study quite unique in terms of its design and research findings. First of all, the fact that this is a longitudinal study is crucial, as this allowed us to monitor and examine the stress and adjustment patterns of sojourners over the entire course of their 8—10 month intercultural exchange while also controlling for baseline, pretravel levels of stress.
We were also able to examine the antecedents and consequences of stress and make claims regarding their temporal variability or stability. Certainly this is not the first study to examine sojourner adjustment over time; but it is the first of its kind to benefit from such a culturally diverse sample of participants. Specifically, this sample included participants traveling from over 40 different countries and traveling to one of 51 different destinations. Cultural distance is a multifaceted construct, which encompasses economic factors i.
Indeed, this dataset is ideally suited to address the cultural distance puzzle, and we have explored this extensively elsewhere.
Still, the diversity of this sample does mean that we can generalize these findings across cultures more confidently than has been possible in previous studies that examined acculturation from a single sending or single hosting perspective Hechanova-Alampay et al. What is less clear is how well the findings reported in this article would generalize to other acculturating groups such as expatriates, immigrants, or refugees.
These groups differ along a number of important dimensions such as whether their relocation is voluntary or not and whether it is permanent or temporary Berry, Also, our exchange students, placed with local host families and attending local schools may have more day to day contact with host nationals than individuals in other acculturating groups. Research has shown that contact with host nationals is important to cultural adjustment Geeraert et al.
In other groups who have less frequent contact with host nationals, patterns of stress and adjustment may differ. It would be interesting therefore, to explicitly test this by replicating the current study in these different samples. In terms of the statistical approach to the analyses reported here, in utilizing both variable and person-centered techniques we were able to provide different perspectives on the course of stress and adjustment over time.
Specifically we were able to offer both explanatory and descriptive findings from the data. The descriptive approach provided a novel perspective on sojourner adjustment over time relative to previous approaches Hechanova-Alampay et al. We argued that identifying multiple patterns of stress over time recognizes and demonstrates that not all individuals react in the same way to an intercultural relocation. The unique features of sojourners reacting in different ways can therefore be examined and provide a more tailored view of the acculturation process and the factors that may facilitate or hinder it see also Wang et al.
With regards to the findings on coping strategy use, these have a high level of practical relevance as they can be used to inform interventions and training programs for relocating individuals. While some level of stress may be inevitable for sojourning groups, this research suggests that employing certain coping strategies over others may ameliorate the degree and or duration of this stress. The body of research on acculturation is growing rapidly as intercultural contact becomes an increasingly common experience for individuals around the world. This phenomenon is closely related to advances in technology which make cross-cultural travel and communication so easy now.
It is important for research to keep up with this change by exploring and understanding how different groups of individuals experience and react to this.
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