Group identification and perceived discrimination : a study of international students in the UK
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This thesis examined how international students experience life in the UK and, in particular, how these students respond to experiences with discrimination and social exclusion. Specifically, we drew on the rejection-identification model (Branscombe et al., 1999) in order to examine the impact of minority group identification as a coping strategy against perceptions of discrimination. Despite the number of studies supporting the rejection-identification model (e.g. Schmitt et al., 2002, Schmitt et al., 2003), discrepant findings were found in other research (e.g. McCoy & Major, 2003; Eccleston & Major, 2006). In order to solve these inconsistencies we proposed to extend this model in two important ways. Firstly, building on important work on the multidimensionality of social identification (e.g. Cameron & Lalonde, 2001; Ellemers et al., 1999; Jackson, 2002), we argued that a multidimensional perspective of the rejection-identification model is fundamental given that different dimensions of social identification (i.e. ingroup affect, centrality, and ingroup ties) have different effects on psychological well-being. Secondly, we hypothesised that the protective effect of the different dimensions of social identification depended upon individual preferences, beliefs and behaviours towards own and host group (i.e. acculturation strategies). These two extensions to the rejection-identification model were tested longitudinally with a sample of 160 international students. Results indicated that none of the dimensions of social identification serve to protect students from the harmful effects of discrimination. Indeed, support was found for the argument that it is important to investigate possible moderators of the rejection-identification relationship. Our results also indicated that when international students perceive discrimination, a separation strategy allows them to maintain ingroup affect, and in this way protect their self-esteem. Integration, marginalisation, and assimilation strategies were associated with lower ingroup affect leaving these students without a successful strategy to cope with discrimination. Although the aim of this thesis was to examine the experiences of international students, in Chapter 7 we replicated our previous model with a sample of Polish immigrants (N = 66) in order to test whether our results could be generalised to other minority groups. Results supported the previous findings with international students. Finally, the discussion of this thesis focused on the importance of taking into account individual acculturation strategies in order to understand the relation between perceived discrimination, minority group identification, and well-being. We also focused on how the knowledge generated by this research may support international students.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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