Social support benefits psychological adjustment of international students: Evidence from a meta-analysis

Michael Bender*, Y.M.J. van Osch, Willem Sleegers, Mengyu Ye

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

A growing body of literature is exploring the link between social support and international students’ psychological adjustment. So far, however, there has been no systematic assessment of the overall relationship, and no indication which types and sources of social support may be most strongly associated with psychological adjustment. Our meta-analysis of 257 effect sizes across 76 studies fills this gap and assesses (1) the magnitude of the overall association between social support and international students’ psychological adjustment, (2) how different types (subjective, objective, and mixed) and sources (host, conational, international, mixed, and unspecified) of social support moderate the relationship between social support and psychological adjustment, and (3) whether the relationship between social support and psychological adjustment holds across different operationalizations of psychological adjustment. We find a positive overall association (r = .20, 95% CI [.16, .23]) between social support and international students’ psychological adjustment. Types and sources of social support matter as well: Subjective social support relates more strongly to psychological adjustment than objective social support. The data revealed that only support from mixed sources (i.e., not distinguishing between internationals, host, or conationals) is associated with a stronger effect of social support than support from conationals or from fellow international students (compared to support from host sources). We find no differences in the relation between social support and positive or negative adjustment. We outline recommendations for future research based on the meta-analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-847
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Volume50
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • ACCULTURATIVE STRESS
  • COPING STRATEGIES
  • CROSS-CULTURAL ADAPTATION
  • DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS
  • EXCHANGE STUDENTS
  • MENTAL-HEALTH
  • MULTILEVEL ANALYSIS
  • SOCIOCULTURAL ADJUSTMENT
  • TAIWANESE STUDENTS
  • UNITED-STATES
  • acculturation
  • international students
  • meta-analysis
  • psychological adjustment
  • social support

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