International and Domestic Graduate Student Satisfaction with Life

Application of the Perfectionism Diathesis-Stress Model


  • Hanna Suh National Institute of Education
  • Jihee Hong Georgia State University
  • Kenneth Rice Georgia State University
  • Victoria Kelly



Emotional Well-Being, Perfectionism, International Graduate Students, Comparative Study


With increasing mental health problems witnessed among students, adequately addressing their well-being is becoming important on college campuses. This study compares international and domestic graduate students in the United States on domains that are relevant to both student groups (perfectionistic personality, academic stress) and how these factors combinedly predict satisfaction with life. With 531 international and 359 domestic graduate students, results found support for perfectionism and academic stress predicting life satisfaction in both groups with notable similarities and differences. For perfectionists in both student groups, the level of academic stress was an important factor that determined satisfaction with life. Interestingly, for international students only, the perfectionism dimension of standards, which has been traditionally considered adaptive, functioned in a maladaptive way. Findings from this study suggest that international and domestic students share similarities and differences that should be noted.

Author Biographies

Hanna Suh, National Institute of Education

Hanna Suh, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Psychology and Child & Human Development Academic Group at the National Institute of Education/Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. In her research, she explores how individuals deal with stress to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. Research interest topics include perfectionism, mindfulness and positive psychology interventions, and online counseling. Email:

Jihee Hong, Georgia State University

Jihee Hong, M.A., is a doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program at Georgia State University. Her research interests include exploring role of risk and protective factors (e.g., perfectionism, self-compassion) in predicting mental health outcomes (e.g., suicidal risk factors), and examining psychometric properties of psychological measurements. Email:

Kenneth Rice, Georgia State University

Kenneth G. Rice, PhD, is the Matheny Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Counseling & Psychological Services, and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Stress, Trauma, and Resilience, at Georgia State University. Much of his research focuses on stress and how personal characteristics (such as perfectionism) moderate the effects of stress on a variety of health, mental health, and academic outcomes. Email:

Victoria Kelly

Victoria A. Kelly is a project manager for Relias LLC and former research assistant for various academic research labs. Her research interests focus on social influences on judgment and decision-making.


American Psychological Association (2013). College students’ mental health is a growing concern, survey finds. Retrieved from

Arana, F. G., Rice, K. G., & Ashby, J. S. (2018). Perfectionism in Argentina and the United States: Measurement structure, invariance, and implications for depression. Journal of Personality Assessment, 100(2), 219-230. doi: 10.1080/00223891.2017.1296845

Association for the University and College Counseling Center Directors (2016). The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors Annual Survey. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from

Bastien, G., Seifen-Adkins, T., & Johnson, L. R. (2018). Striving for success: Academic adjustment of international students in the US. Journal of International Students, 8(2), 1198-1219.

Bennett, R. J., Volet, S. E., & Fozdar, F. E. (2013). I’d say it’s kind of unique in a way. Journal of Studies in International Education, 17(5), 533-553.

Blankstein, K. R., Lumley, C. H., & Crawford, A. (2007). Perfectionism, hopelessness, and suicide ideation: Revisions to diathesis-stress and specific vulnerability models. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 25(4), 279-319.

Brunsting, N. C., Smith, A. C., & Zachry, C. E. (2018). An academic and cultural transition course for international students: Efficacy and socio-emotional outcomes. Journal of International Students, 8(4), 1497-1521.

Chang, E. C., & Rand, K. L. (2000). Perfectionism as a predictor of subsequent adjustment: Evidence for a specific diathesis–stress mechanism among college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47(1), 129-137.

Chen, F. F. (2008). What happens if we compare chopsticks with forks? The impact of making inappropriate comparisons in cross-cultural research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1005-1018.

Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 385-396.

Cowie, M. E., Nealis, L. J., Sherry, S. B., Hewitt, P. L., & Flett, G. L. (2018). Perfectionism and academic difficulties in graduate students: Testing incremental prediction and gender moderation. Personality and Individual Differences, 123, 223-228.

Curtin, N., Stewart, A. J., & Ostrove, J. M. (2013). Fostering academic self-concept: Advisor support and sense of belonging among international and domestic graduate students. American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), 108-137.

Diener, E. D., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71-75.

Dimitrov, D. M. (2010). Testing for factorial invariance in the context of construct validation. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 43(2), 121-149.

Dunkley, D. M., Mandel, T., & Ma, D. (2014). Perfectionism, neuroticism, and daily stress reactivity and coping effectiveness 6 months and 3 years later. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 61(4), 616-633.

Enns, M. W., Cox, B. J., & Clara, I. P. (2005). Perfectionism and neuroticism: A longitudinal study of specific vulnerability and diathesis-stress models. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29(4), 463-478.

Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., Blankstein, K. R., & Mosher, S. W. (1995). Perfectionism, life events, and depressive symptoms: A test of a diathesis-stress model. Current Psychology, 14(2), 112-137.

Gaudreau, P., & Thompson, A. (2010). Testing a 2× 2 model of dispositional perfectionism. Personality and Individual Differences, 48(5), 532-537.

Glass, C. R., & Westmont, C. M. (2014). Comparative effects of belongingness on the academic success and cross-cultural interactions of domestic and international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 38, 106-119.

Gouveia, V. V., Milfont, T. L., Da Fonseca, P. N., & de Miranda Coelho, J. A. P. (2009). Life satisfaction in Brazil: Testing the psychometric properties of the satisfaction with life scale (SWLS) in five Brazilian samples. Social Indicators Research, 90(2), 267-277.

Hamamura, T., & Laird, P. G. (2014). The effect of perfectionism and acculturative stress on levels of depression experienced by East Asian international students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 42(4), 205-217.

Huang, S. L., & Mussap, A. J. (2018). Maladaptive Perfectionism, Acculturative Stress and Depression in Asian International University Students. Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools, 28(2), 185-196.

Institute of International Education Open Doors (2018). Institute of International Education. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from

Kang, Y., McNeish, D. M., & Hancock, G. R. (2016). The role of measurement quality on practical guidelines for assessing measurement and structural invariance. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 76(4), 533-561. doi:10.1177/0013164415603764

Karaman, M. A., & Watson, J. C. (2017). Examining associations among achievement motivation, locus of control, academic stress, and life satisfaction: A comparison of US and international undergraduate students. Personality and Individual Differences, 111, 106-110.

Klein, A., & Moosbrugger, H. (2000). Maximum likelihood estimation of latent interaction effects with the LMS method. Psychometrika, 65(4), 457-474.

Klein, A. G., & Muthén, B. O. (2007). Quasi-maximum likelihood estimation of structural equation models with multiple interaction and quadratic effects. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 42(4), 647-673.

Kumaraswamy, N. (2013). Academic stress, anxiety and depression among college students: A brief review. International Review of Social Sciences and Humanities, 5(1), 135-143.

Lehtomäki, E., Moate, J., & Posti-Ahokas, H. (2016). Global connectedness in higher education: student voices on the value of cross-cultural learning dialogue. Studies in Higher Education, 41(11), 2011-2027.

Lent, R. W., do Céu Taveira, M., Sheu, H. B., & Singley, D. (2009). Social cognitive predictors of academic adjustment and life satisfaction in Portuguese college students: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 74(2), 190-198.

Liao, K. Y. H., & Wei, M. (2014). Academic stress and positive affect: Asian value and self-worth contingency as moderators among Chinese international students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 20(1), 107-115.

Limburg, K., Watson, H. J., Hagger, M. S., & Egan, S. J. (2017). The relationship between perfectionism and psychopathology: A meta‐analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73(10), 1301-1326.

McDonald, R. P., & Marsh, H. W. (1990). Choosing a multivariate model: Noncentrality and goodness of fit. Psychological Bulletin, 107(2), 247-255. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.107.2.247

Marsh, H. W., & Hau, K. T. (2007). Applications of latent-variable models in educational psychology: The need for methodological-substantive synergies. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 32(1), 151-170.

Marsh, H. W., Wen, Z., & Hau, K. T. (2004). Structural equation models of latent interactions: evaluation of alternative estimation strategies and indicator construction. Psychological Methods, 9(3), 275-300.

Meade, A. W., Johnson, E. C., & Braddy, P. W. (2008). Power and sensitivity of alternative fit indices in tests of measurement invariance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 568-592.

Misra, R., & Castillo, L. G. (2004). Academic stress among college students: Comparison of American and international students. International Journal of Stress Management, 11(2), 132-148.

Moate, R. M., Gnilka, P. B., West, E. M., & Rice, K. G. (2019). Doctoral Student Perfectionism and Emotional Well-Being. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 1-11.

Moore, P., & Hampton, G. (2015). ‘It’s a bit of a generalisation, but…’: participant perspectives on intercultural group assessment in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40(3), 390-406.

Poropat, A. E. (2009). A meta-analysis of the five-factor model of personality and academic performance. Psychological Bulletin, 135(2), 322-338.

Rice, K. G., Leever, B. A., Christopher, J., & Porter, J. D. (2006). Perfectionism, stress, and social (dis)connection: A short-term study of hopelessness, depression, and academic adjustment among honors students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53(4), 524-534.

Rice, K. G., Richardson, C. M., & Tueller, S. (2014). The short form of the revised almost perfect scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 96(3), 368-379.

Sass, D. A. (2011). Testing measurement invariance and comparing latent factor means within a confirmatory factor analysis framework. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 29(4), 347-363.

Stoeber, J. (2018). The psychology of perfectionism: Critical issues, open questions, and future directions. In J. Stoeber (Ed.), The psychology of perfectionism: Theory, research, applications (pp. 333-352). London: Routledge.

Stoeber, J., & Kersting, M. (2007). Perfectionism and aptitude test performance: Testees who strive for perfection achieve better test results. Personality and Individual Differences, 42(6), 1093-1103.

Tucker, K. L., Ozer, D. J., Lyubomirsky, S., & Boehm, J. K. (2006). Testing for measurement invariance in the satisfaction with life scale: A comparison of Russians and North Americans. Social Indicators Research, 78(2), 341-360.

Wang, K. T., Heppner, P. P., Fu, C. C., Zhao, R., Li, F., & Chuang, C. C. (2012). Profiles of acculturative adjustment patterns among Chinese international students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(3), 424-436.

Wei, M., Heppner, P. P., Mallen, M. J., Ku, T. Y., Liao, K. Y. H., & Wu, T. F. (2007). Acculturative stress, perfectionism, years in the United States, and depression among Chinese international students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54(4), 385-394.

Zhang, J., & Goodson, P. (2011). Predictors of international students’ psychosocial adjustment to life in the United States: A systematic review. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(2), 139-162.

Zhao, C. M., Kuh, G. D., & Carini, R. M. (2005). A comparison of international student and American student engagement in effective educational practices. Journal of Higher Education, 76(2), 209-231.

Zureck, E., Altstötter-Gleich, C., Wolf, O. T., & Brand, M. (2014). It depends: Perfectionism as a moderator of experimentally induced stress. Personality and Individual Differences, 63, 30-35.



How to Cite

Suh, H., Hong, J., Rice, K., & Kelly, V. . (2021). International and Domestic Graduate Student Satisfaction with Life: Application of the Perfectionism Diathesis-Stress Model. Journal of International Students, 12(1), 216–238.



Research Articles