Cultural Intelligence Trajectories in New International Students: Implications for the Development of Cross-Cultural Competence

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Abstract

Despite considerable research, a major challenge today is to define and assess the development of cross-cultural competence. The aim of this study is to better understand the role of cultural competence in the adjustment of international students studying in the United States. We examined distinct trajectories of cultural intelligence (CQ) over time, as well as several environmental/situational predictors of CQ and related psychological outcomes. The sample consisted of 221 Chinese international students studying in the United States. CQ was measured through a self-reported Cultural Intelligence Scale over 4 time points (prearrival, first month, second month, and third month). Four distinct groups of CQ trajectories emerged over these 4 time periods: (a) consistently high CQ scores (High CQ; 72%), (b) decreasing CQ scores (Decreasing CQ; 13%), (c) increasing CQ scores (Increasing CQ; 8%), and (d) a sharp decrease in CQ scores over the first 2 months which later rebounded at the third month (Rebounding CQ; 7%). Factors that significantly predicted the CQ trajectories were connectedness with mainstream society, anxiety, perceived language discrimination, and marginally coping through family support. Moreover, CQ trajectories were more associated with positive psychological outcome indicators (i.e., positive affect and satisfaction with life) than with negative affect. Practical implications and future directions were also discussed.

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