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The impact of stressors during international assignments

Katherine Rosenbusch (Department of Psychology, Towson University, Towson, Maryland, USA)
Leonard J. Cerny II (CernySmith Assessments, Kansas City, Missouri, USA)
David R. Earnest (Department of Psychology, Towson University, Towson, Maryland, USA)

Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal

ISSN: 1352-7606

Article publication date: 3 August 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine relationships between cross-cultural adjustment and stress of expatriate employees with families in a multinational corporation and identify common stressors reported during international transitions.


This study utilized both quantitative and qualitative methods through an online survey based tool. The CernySmith Assessment captured the statistical measures of objective adjustment scales along with written in, subjective stressor responses from a sample of expatriates.


Overall subjective stress level was negatively correlated with all five objective adjustment domains (organizational, cultural, relational, behavioral, and personal). Seven stressor categories (cultural, occupational, relational, historical, crisis, spiritual, physical) demonstrated statistically significant negative relationships with overall adjustment. Regression analysis indicated expatriate adjustment was predicted by spiritual, occupational, and support stressors. Write-in stressor responses provided specific expressions of individual stress challenges, strains, and hassles that support predicted relations according to the Family Adaptation and Adjustment Response model.

Research limitations/implications

This study provides a snapshot of objective adjustment interacting with subjective stress for expatriate employees from a single international organization during a specific time period.


These findings provide insights to organizations and human resource development professionals as well as to expatriates and their families on how stress impacts expatriate adjustment. It also highlights the need for support mechanisms to ease transitions and reduce stressors.



Contribution of authors: Dr Katherine Rosenbusch contributed the literature review, conceptual design, and methodology as well as implications and conclusions. Dr Leonard Cerny provided the overview of the CernySmith Assessment and final edits on the paper. Dr David Earnest provided the statistical analysis of the data along with final edits of the paper.


Rosenbusch, K., Cerny II, L.J. and Earnest, D.R. (2015), "The impact of stressors during international assignments", Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 405-430.



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