Date of Award

Spring 1999

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene

Committee Director

Michele L. Darby

Committee Member

Irene M. Connolly

Committee Member

Evelyn Thomson-Lakey

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.D46 M34


The purpose of this descriptive investigation was to determine the cultural adaptability of students attending culturally diverse and nonculturally diverse dental hygiene programs throughout the U.S. The dental hygiene schools were identified according to their ethnic diversity as reported by the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation in the 1996-1997 Survey of Dental Hygiene Education Programs. Once the programs were identified, a random sample was taken from the diverse and non-diverse dental hygiene programs. A 50-item inventory, the Cross-Cultural Adaptability Inventory (CCAI), was mailed to the participating dental hygiene programs. One-hundred eighty-eight students represented U.S. dental hygiene programs in the following regions: Mid-Atlantic, South, Southeast, Southwest, Central, Northcentral and Northwest. The unpaired t-test was utilized to examine the differences between the groups on overall cultural adaptability and on its four dimensions: emotional resilience, flexibility/openness, perceptual acuity, and personal autonomy. Group mean and standard deviation scores were compared with the CCAI norm group scores. The results revealed no significant difference in the overall cultural adaptability of students attending either a culturally diverse or non-culturally diverse dental hygiene program. However, both groups' overall scores were significantly lower than the CCAI norm group. The culturally diverse group had significantly lower scores in flexibility/openness (p = .054) and perceptual acuity (p = .021) and significantly higher scores in emotional resilience (p = .000) when compared to the non-culturally diverse group. Scores in the dimension of emotional resilience and flexibility/openness were lower than the CCAI norm group, and scores in the dimension of perceptual acuity and personal autonomy were comparable with the CCAI norm group. There was no statistically significant difference between the culturally diverse and nonculturally diverse groups in the personal autonomy dimension. Findings suggest that dental hygiene students need more education in and experience with diversity issues. With low scores in the dimension of emotional resilience and flexibility/openness, students may lack the confidence and knowledge to cope with cross-cultural healthcare situations. However, the similar personal autonomy scores of the culturally diverse and non-culturally diverse students suggest that they already possess a strong sense of identity, responsibility, and respect for others.


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