The expatriate spouse : a study of their adjustment to expatriate life : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
In today’s global industrial and commercial marketplace, a workforce of expatriates is
frequently cited as a competitive necessity. However, upon undertaking an international
assignment, the expatriate is often faced with a raft of new challenges and opportunities.
Failure of expatriates to successfully adjust to these changes sees international organisations
potentially facing a number of direct and indirect costs.
Surprisingly, despite the contributory role that the expatriate spouse plays in the expatriate’s
adjustment process, investigation into the unique adjustment of the spouse themselves has, to
date, received little empirical attention. This thesis has therefore sought to further bridge this
conceptual gap and provide additional knowledge for enhancing the outcomes of international
assignments by examining two key areas of association, namely the unique relationship
between spouses’ adjustment and (a) their perceived availability of social support, and (b)
their subjective well-being. Seventy seven expatriate spouses successfully completed an
online questionnaire which asked participants to think about their available social support,
their adjustment to their host country, their life satisfaction, and their recent feelings and
emotions. Qualitative data was also collected around what spouses found to constitute
stressful and satisfying aspects of expatriate life.
The results of this study indicated that spouses’ perceived availability of socio-emotional and
instrumental support is important for their general adjustment outcomes, irrespective of the
influence of personality and socio-demographic variables. The study also endorsed the
proposition that expatriate spouse adjustment holds positive significance for affective balance, even after controlling for the contribution of support and personality variables. Findings from
the content analysis revealed the need for more research into the relevance of current
organisational initiatives and their effects on adjustment outcomes, such as, foreign language
training, employment assistance/career maintenance, and the processes surrounding relocation