Mediated metamorphosis: Communication between Chinese international students and their parents and its role in their adaptation
The number of international students in the United States has been skyrocketing in the past few years and are expected to grow continually in the future. In their adaptation to the host country, they need to maintain a positive relationship with the old social networks, especially their parents, in the home country, to be supported in various ways. At the same time, they also need to avoid potential parental distractions and interference with their academic, work, and personal life. These goals make their communication with parents a process of balancing connectedness and autonomy, a process that is almost exclusively carried out in a mediated environment and is thus inevitably entangled with media with different affordances. The current dissertation aims to explore the roles various media play in their communication, in terms of connecting the parents as well as helping the children to gain or maintain autonomy, focusing on Chinese international students. Through a two-step interview study, this dissertation qualitatively describes the general communication between Chinese international students in the United States and their remotely located parents in China, in terms of media choices, relational maintenance, and autonomy-related communicative behaviors. Through a survey study, it also quantitatively examines the relationship between communication using different media and the students’ adaptation in the United States, as well as their levels of autonomy and connectedness with the parents. The interviews reveal that Chinese international students strategically take advantage of the different affordances of various media to maintain their relationships with parents. Apart from the widely used video and audio calls, social network sites have also gained popularity. Meanwhile, children also use them as a way to establish their own identity to parents as well as to friends, and sometimes a way to curb the parental “monitoring” when necessary. The survey furthers previous studies by revealing how the communication with parents affected their perceived connectedness with them and their adaptation. The survey corroborates the importance of communication with parents in international students’ adaptation and further provides insights about the nuanced differences between Chinese international students’ interaction patterns with fathers and mothers. Based on these findings, I discuss how the current dissertation enriches the understanding of relational maintenance behaviors between parents and young adults children in a mediated environment, and how such environment provides support for the children to maintain their autonomy. Limitations and future research questions are also presented in the end.
adaptation; autonomy; computer-mediated communication; connectedness; international students; parent-child communication
Fussell, Susan R.
Bazarova, Natalie; Cosley, Daniel; Burrow, Anthony L.
Ph. D., Communication
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis