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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Intercultural Relations

First Advisor

Janet Bennett

First Committee Member

Anne Copeland

Second Committee Member

Kent Warren


Globalization has led to interdependent relationships between nations and economies. As a result, there is a growing trend for organizations to send employees abroad for temporary assignments. Organizational development specialists have identified intercultural competence--a combination of affective, cognitive, and behavioral skills-as essential for executives to successfully manage the challenges of an increasingly diverse working environment.

When couples are sent abroad on assignments, the employee and the non-working accompanying spouse often have very different experiences in terms of their contacts with the host culture. The employee moves into an organizational environment with a specific role and objectives. In contrast, the accompanying spouse may find him- or herself in an entirely different role.

This study explored experiences of the employees and accompanying spouses in terms of their contact with the host culture and the intensity factors associated with their expatriate assignments. The participants completed the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDiv.3) to measure their intercultural competence, and engaged in a structured interview.

I found similar levels of intercultural competence in both spouses. The majority scored in the ethnocentric stages of Minimization and below. Only one participant scored above Minimization in Acceptance. The findings from this study suggest that should offer support to the assignee and accompanying spouse according to their needs in that situation. Ideally the support would include both pre-departure cultural training and ongoing access to a skilled cultural mentor. The development of intercultural competence beyond Minimization requires self-reflection and an examination of assumptions, and this process is rarely followed without support or intervention.



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