Min-Hua Hsieh

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Orem, Richard A.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Asian American college students--Ethnic identity; Women college students--Race identity


A narrative study was conducted to investigate how East Asian female international students negotiate their identities in a second-language environment. Nine adult female international students from East Asia participated in this study. Data were collected mainly via taped individual interviews. Two categories emerged from the transcribed interviews: identity development and identity negotiation. This study found that although the participants' identity development can be explained also by their high aspirations to personal growth, their identities were developed mainly by the play of social contexts and individuals. Therefore, the findings challenge the conceptual approach that defines identity as something that develops naturally and make it clear that identity formation may not be detached from social relations of power. This study found that most of the participants experienced what they perceived to be constraints on their identities imposed by the American ideology of cultural homogeneity. The ideology not only attributes a deficient identity to them, but it also involves social injustice issues. Therefore, this study suggests that the responsibility for international students' identity development lies with the international students and with the host society. Although most of the participants experienced constraints on their identities, instead of passively reacting to the dominant cultural and social norms, they strove to construct their agency of identity and depended mainly on less confrontational communication and their psychological resources to negotiate their identities. However, because their emphasis on intraharmony kept them from acting upon the social world, most of the participants had difficulty negotiating a social identity acceptable or desirable to them, although they achieved a positive self-identity. Therefore, their ethnic cultural influences also posed an additional constraint on their identities. The findings of this study suggest that the participants have experienced identity development differently; hence, they render the assumption of a universal pattern of adult identity development inaccurate. However, although each narrated story is different, there is a commonality among the participants' patterns of self- and personal identity development. They all developed a more positive self-perception and a more expressive self-representation than they had before studying in the United States or upon their arrival in the United States.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [236]-259).


xi, 273 pages




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