Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Measuring Acculturative Stress of Chinese International Students: Development and Validation of the Unique Stress of Chinese International Students Questionnaire (USCIS)

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

William O'Brien (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Abby Braden (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Yiwei Chen (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lara Lengel (Other)


Over half a million of Chinese international students left their homeland to study abroad in western universities. These students’ unique mental health needs should be addressed. Research has indicated that Chinese international students face unique acculturative stressors and have higher levels of psychological distress compared to their domestic counterparts. Yet, there is a lack of research on the measurement of these stressors. In a previous study, we used data from a focus group study to develop a new acculturative stress measure for Chinese international students and conducted a preliminary analysis with a small sample to further modify the measure. Then, an exploratory factor analysis was conducted using a bigger sample and that resulted in a 9-factor measure. This measure has a total of 40 items and was named the Unique Stress of Chinese International Students Questionnaire (USCIS). The USCIS demonstrated good internal consistencies and criterion-related validity when used to predict psychological distress. In this study, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted with data from 333 Chinese international student participants. This CFA replicated the previously established nine-factor model and this model demonstrated a good model fit. The nine factors in the model are Loneliness, Social Isolation, Academic Stress, Health Care, Language Barrier, Financial Burden, Academic Isolation, Family Distance, and Transportation. The psychometric properties of this new measure were evaluated, including internal consistency and construct validity by using correlational analysis and hierarchical regression. The testing results suggested excellent internal consistency of the USCIS and adequate convergent/discriminant validity and criterion-related validity. The USCIS is one of the first measures devoted to assessing acculturative stress experienced by CIS. We envision this measure to be used as a screening tool for identifying CIS who express acculturation-related distress. Due to its significant predicting power of psychological distress and somatization, this measure would perform well as a predictor of general wellbeing and mental health for CIS. Moreover, the USCIS can be used to detect the effects of racial discrimination and microaggression on acculturation-related wellbeing. In addition, we argue that this culturally sensitive and population-specific measure can serve as an outcome measure for interventions targeting acculturative stress.