An Examination of Social Anxiety, Social Skills, Social Adjustment, and Self-Construal in Chinese and American Students at an American University


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Virginia Tech


Research has shown that international students studying in the United States report significantly lower levels of social adjustment than American students. Cultural differences may contribute to this problem; however, social relationships between international students and American students lead to greater adjustment for the former group. In spite of this finding, many international students fail to develop significant interpersonal relationships with American students. In this study, self-construal, social anxiety, and social skills were investigated as possible mediating variables for international student social adjustment. During the first phase of the study, data were collected from 59 Chinese and 105 American graduate students at a large state university in the southeastern United States. Results indicated that Chinese students experience lower social adjustment, higher levels of social anxiety, and report higher interdependent self-construal than American students. Independent self-construal was inversely related to social anxiety for both groups. In addition, an inverse relationship between social anxiety and social adjustment was found for the American students only. For the second phase of the study, a subset of Chinese (N = 28) and American (N = 32) students from the first phase participated in four separate dyadic interactions with both Chinese and American confederates. The students were asked to rate their level of anxiety both before and after the interaction, and their behavior during the interaction was videotaped and later rated by independent observers. Analyses of these data revealed that American students experienced higher anxiety than Chinese students both before and after the interactions. Social adjustment appears to play a role in this difference since Chinese subjects with low social adjustment reported lower post-interaction anxiety than those with high social adjustment. Self-construal is also discussed as a possible explanation for this finding. In addition, American students were rated as having better overall social skills (as defined by American norms) than Chinese students. Both groups of students reported lower anxiety after interacting with an American confederate, perhaps due to language difficulties during interactions with Chinese confederates. Finally, some interesting results were revealed when the effects of sex were explored in the analyses. Implications for student orientation programs and directions for future research are discussed.



University Students, Self-Construal, Adjustment, United States, Culture, China, Social Skills, Social Anxiety