Examining the Effects of Multiple Social Groups on International Students’ Ethnic Identity and Well-Being Using Social Identity Mapping 

Hong, M. (University of Queensland), Lam, B. C. P. (University of Queensland), Clements, S. (University of Queensland) 

Many international students suffer from poor psychological health due to the difficulty of establishing meaningful social networks. Previous research suggested that identification with one’s ethnic group enhances students’ health and well-being through promoting support and self-esteem. Nonetheless, there is limited research on how ethnic identification is enhanced in this context. Derived from the social identity approach to health, we proposed that belonging to multiple social groups from similar ethnic backgrounds would strengthen international students’ ethnic identification, which would eventually promote health and well-being. To test this, we recruited a sample of international students across universities in Australia. Participants were asked to create a map of their social identity networks using a social identity mapping tool, which was used to assess their group memberships, as well as to complete measures on their ethnic identification and life satisfaction. Results partially supported our prediction that students who joined groups from diverse ethnic backgrounds (rather than similar backgrounds) experienced heightened ethnic identification, which in turn predicted their psychological well-being. These findings advance our understanding on the role of social identities in international students’ adjustment, and inform practice to improve students’ well-being through social group engagement. 


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Culture and Social Identity