Black and Stephens, 1989: The adjustment model used for this research

Black and Stephens’ three dimensional model is made up of a general adjustment variable, a work adjustment variable, and an interaction adjustment variable. This model has been widely used and validated subsequently by a host of other researchers (e.g. Black et al, 1991; Selmer, 2005; Shaffer, Harrison, & Gilley, 1999) as well as meta-analytic review (Bhaskar-Shrinivas et al., 2004; Bhaskar-Shrinivas et al., 2005). This three dimensional model is often used as the base model in current research (Bhaskar-Shrinivas et al., 2004).

General Adjustment variable (GENADJ). This variable involves perceived adjustment in the everyday life situations of the expatriate. While it is not comprehensive to include everything in this category, for example, bill paying, it covers many common situations such as shopping, living space, and food. McGinley (2008) found that general adjustment is significantly correlated with the expatriate’s satisfaction with their interaction with host country nationals. This finding has been supported with other research as well (Johnson, Kristof-Brown, Van Vianen, De Pater, & Rigsby, 2002). Bhasker Shrivinas et al. (2004) found that host language fluency increased general adjustment.

Work Adjustment variable (WORADJ). Work adjustment relates to the expatriate’s adjustment to new job tasks, environment, and roles. Waxin and Panicchio (2005) found that work adjustment is significantly affected by cross cultural training. Interestingly, Bhasker-Shrivinas et al. (2005) found that host language fluency did not increase work adjustment, although it does positively impact the other two dimensions. Lee (2005) found that job satisfaction increases expatriate adjustment. This was also supported by Lee and Liu (2006), who demonstrated that job satisfaction leads to more successful adjustment.

Interaction Adjustment variable (INTADJ). The interaction adjustment variable of Black and Stephens’ 1989 model focuses on the expatriate’s interaction with host country nationals (HCNs). Frequency of contact with HCNs is strongly correlated with interaction adjustment (Hechanova, Beehr, & Christiansen, 2005). This was supported by a 2008 study by Osman-Gani and Rockstuhl which found that the number of HCNs in an expatriate’s network is more important than the depth of the relationship with those HCNs. However, the strength of the relationship affects the job performance of the expatriate.

The interaction adjustment variable has been correlated with other findings as well. Bhasker Shrivinas et al. (2004) found that host language fluency increased interaction adjustment. The interaction adjustment variable has been demonstrated to be mediated by both the general adjustment variable and the work variable (Wang & Takeuchi, 2007). This supports the meta-analytic findings of Bhaskar-Shrinivas (2005). It also demonstrates contact theory, or that the expatriate’s relationships with HCNs improves at work, which then helps them to develop more positive attitudes toward the culture and environment, which in turn leads to more successful work and general adjustment (Kraimer, 2001).

About Dr. Jen

A research psychologist studying expatriate adjustment in official Americans stationed abroad.
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