Date of Award

12-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Anson E. Long

Second Advisor

Beverly J. Goodwin

Third Advisor

Maureen C. McHugh

Abstract

The past few decades have seen a dramatic increase in global migration rates that has inspired a growing body of literature examining various aspects of immigrants’ mental and physical health after resettlement. Although the vast majority of the immigration-focused psychological research has centered primarily on migration-related challenges and negative outcomes, in recent years interest has turned to understanding the factors that contribute to positive immigrant well-being. While social support provided in face-to-face contexts has been identified as a particularly salient predictor of positive psychological functioning, little attention has been directed toward exploring the influence of online social support and unsupportive online social interactions on immigrants’ mental health.

The original purpose of the present study was to address this gap in the literature by examining, via an online survey, how various aspects of the social support immigrants receive through their online social networks (OSNs) affect their psychological well-being. However, due to an inadequate number of responses obtained for the subset of survey questions related to immigrants’ received online social support, the study’s focus shifted to investigating predictive factors of immigrants’ subjective psychological well-being following resettlement in the destination country. A second goal was to evaluate the relative importance of perceived online social support versus perceived offline (face-to-face) social support in predicting immigrants’ subjective well-being. Thus, the present research examined the effects of six selected sociodemographic factors (age, gender, race, marital status, education, and religiosity), past and current life stressors (traumatic events experienced before and after coming to Canada, stressful events experienced in the past 12 months), psychological resources (cultural adaptation, sense of mastery), as well as online and offline perceived social support on immigrants’ subjective psychological well-being. The outcome variables included measures of positive (life satisfaction, flourishing) and negative (loneliness, immigrant distress, existential isolation, and perceived stress) aspects of immigrants’ psychological functioning.

A series of hierarchical multiple regression analyses was conducted on a final sample of 120 immigrants of varying backgrounds residing in Montreal, Canada. Results indicated that marital status (being married), education (having completed less than a university degree), greater cultural adaptation, a higher sense of mastery, and greater perceived offline social support all predicted higher levels of positive psychological functioning. Negative mental health outcomes were associated with marital status (being single), race (identifying as Non-Caucasian), having experienced a traumatic event before coming to Canada, poorer cultural adaptation, lower levels of self-mastery, and lower perceived online social support. Age, gender, religiosity, traumatic events experienced after coming to Canada, and stressful events experienced in the past year were not found to be significant predictors of subjective psychological well-being in this sample. Moreover, perceived offline social support predicted higher positive psychological functioning, while greater perceived online social support was associated only with lower levels of existential isolation. Implications of the current findings and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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