Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Family Psychology


Professional Psychology and Family Therapy


Ben Beitin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Margaret Brady-Amoon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Peggy Farrelly, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pamela Foley, Ph.D.


Expatriate Families, families living abroad, multinational companies, systemic, Japanese, Switzerland


For hundreds of years, people have traveled across land and sea for various employment opportunities. In the past, the majority of these moves have been taken by the worker alone, leaving their family members, spouse and children, behind in their country of origin. With the advancement of technology, the relative convenience of global transportation, and higher paying overseas jobs, many families are now able to accompany the member whose work has been posted over seas. Experiences of expatriate workers and their families, as they transition to living in a foreign country, is an important area of interest for companies, professionals, and families but has been often overlooked and understudied. Therefore, this study was intended to address that gap by examining the perceptions and experiences of expatriate workers and their families during a transition to living in a foreign country.

The following research questions guided this study: (a) How do expatriate families experience the transition to a foreign country?; and (b) How do expatriate families cope with the experience of transition to a foreign country? The research design was a qualitative approach to collecting detailed information, which characterized experiences of expatriate families’ transition and coping with living in a foreign country.

The findings of this study indicated that experiences of expatriate families during their initial move and transition to a foreign environment are profoundly influenced by the variables of culture, residential/social community, husband-wife communication, family communication and family cohesion. In addition, expatriated families found that the presence of external supports through their multinational company (MNC) and greater expatriate community were crucial in helping them forage and maintain a positive transition and post-transition “adaptation” to their foreign country-leading to a successful expatriate tenure.

Limitations, implications for future research, and recommendations for companies, future expatriate families and psychological professionals are discussed.