When You Have Lived in a Different Culture, Does Returning ‘Home’ Not Feel Like Home? Predictors of Psychological Readjustment to the Heritage Culture
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Many repatriates find it challenging to readjust to their heritage culture after spending a significant period of time abroad. Research on predictors of readjustment, however, remains limited. The present study in particular investigated the identification of third culture individuals (TCIs) - that is, individuals who spent their formative years outside of their heritage culture - with an abstract, third culture. Our findings demonstrated that TCIs' identification with the third culture was empirically distinct from that of the heritage and host cultures. The present study further examined whether several variables - sojourner type (TCI vs. non-TCI), perceived conflict between heritage and host culture, perceived cultural distance, and cultural identification with heritage and other cultures - predicted psychological readjustment (stress, anxiety, depression and overall psychological readjustment). The results showed that strong heritage culture identification was associated with better psychological readjustment, whereas cultural conflict was generally associated with poorer readjustment. Furthermore, sojourner type significantly moderated the latter association, such that cultural conflict predicted the stress aspect of psychological readjustment for non-TCIs, but not for TCIs. As the present investigation is the first study to empirically establish identification with a 'third culture' we discuss implications for the literature on third culture individuals and psychological adjustment upon re-entry.
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