Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Trisha Raque-Bogdan

Second Advisor

Gloria Miller

Third Advisor

Lavita Nadkarni

Fourth Advisor

Chu-Lien Chao


International students, Post-migration growth, Relational cultural theory, Self-compassion, Sense of campus belonging


Chinese international students (CISs), the largest segment of international students coming to the US to study at institutions of higher education (IIE, 2016), are reported to experience more acculturative stress than other international students because of the vast differences in social and cultural norms between the United States and China (Li & Glasser, 2005; Yeh & Inose, 2003). The present study used Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) as the framework to explore the ways undergraduate CISs struggle and thrive in the face of acculturative stress and to understand how positive and negative outcomes are associated with their relational health, sense of campus belonging, and selfcompassion. Relational health and sense of campus belonging are constructs of social support within RCT that have been associated with positive outcomes for domestic and international college students (e.g., Frey, Tobin, & Beesley, 2004; Servaty-Seib, Lockman, Shemwell, & Reid Marks, 2016), but have not yet been adequately explored in relation to CISs. Self-compassion is a type of adaptive emotion-regulation strategy that promotes positive psychological health during distressing times, such as the acculturation process (Fong & Loi, 2016). Self-compassion was also examined in relation to outcomes for CISs. While acculturation is associated with negative outcomes such as psychological distress, one of the outcomes under investigation, acculturation may also lead to personal growth for international students (Brown & Brown, 2009). This study adopted a strengths-based approach by exploring the post-migration growth of CISs. No known study to date has explored this combination of variables of CISs. Hierarchical regression analysis revealed that acculturative stress positively predicted psychological distress but was not predictive of post-migration growth for CISs. Relational health and selfcompassion positively predicted post-migration growth, but sense of campus belonging was not predictive of post-migration growth for CISs. Self-compassion was negatively predictive of psychological distress, but neither relational health or sense of campus belonging were significant predictors of psychological distress. Moderation analysis revealed that there is not significant moderation between acculturative stress and selfcompassion on psychological distress. Correlational analysis indicated that peer, mentor, and community relational health all had a significant, negative correlation with psychological distress and a significant, positive correlation with post-migration growth. Results, limitations, and implications for clinical practice are discussed.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Elizabeth A. Harris Shaffner


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

181 p.