Third culture kid
Third culture kid (TCK, 3CK) is a term coined in the early 1950s by American sociologist and anthropologist Ruth Hill Useem "to refer to the children who accompany their parents into another society". Other terms, such as trans-culture kid or global nomad are also used by some. More recently, American sociologist David C. Pollock developed the following description for third culture kids:[page needed]
|“||A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.||”|
- 1 General characteristics
- 2 Origins and terminology
- 3 Families
- 4 Sponsorship
- 5 Language and Third Culture Kids
- 6 Intercultural experiences
- 7 Career decisions
- 8 Statistics (U.S. TCKs)
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References and further reading
- 12 External links
TCKs tend to have more in common with one another, regardless of nationality, than they do with non-TCKs from their passport country. TCKs are often multilingual and highly accepting of other cultures. Although moving between countries may become an easy thing for some TCKs, after a childhood spent in other cultures, adjusting to their passport country often takes years.
Origins and terminology
Dr. Useem coined the term third culture kid after her second year-long visit to India with her fellow sociologist/anthropologist husband and three children. In 1993 she wrote:
In summarizing that which we had observed in our cross-cultural encounters, we began to use the term "third culture" as a generic term to cover the styles of life created, shared, and learned by persons who are in the process of relating their societies, or sections thereof, to each other. The term "Third Culture Kids" or TCKs was coined to refer to the children who accompany their parents into another society.—Ruth Hill Useem, TCK World: The Official Home of Third Culture Kids
She describes the third culture as a shared, or interstitial way of life lived by those who had gone from one culture (the home or first culture) to a host culture (the second) and had developed their own shared way of life with others also living outside their passport cultures.
Kay Eakin adapted this term and described a TCK as "someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than [their] own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture". Because culture by definition is something that must be shared with others, David C. Pollock's definition recognizes the reality of what Eakin is describing but takes it back to Useem's idea that, as with any culture, the "third culture" is a way of life shared with others. Others have used different expressions to describe this same population. Currently they include 3CK or trans-culture kid. Around 1985, Norma McCaig used the term Global Nomad essentially to define the same group because (1) she didn't like being called a kid when she was grown up and (2) she wanted to make clear for future research purposes that this experience happened because of a parent's career choice (which was the case with the TCKs in Useem's first study, although Useem didn't mention this), not refugees or immigrants. McCaig did not want the nuances particular to each type of experience to be lost. For this reason, Ruth Van Reken is now suggesting a more comprehensive term, Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK), for all types of cross-cultural childhoods.
Research into third culture kids has come from two fronts. First, most of the research into TCKs has been conducted by adult TCKs attempting to validate their own experiences. This research has been conducted largely at Michigan State University, where Dr. Useem taught for over 30 years. Second, the U.S armed forces has sponsored significant research into the U.S. military brat experience. Most TCK research on adults is limited to those people whose time in a different culture occurred during the school age years.
Research into TCKs has either studied students currently living in a foreign culture or years later as adults. Since the only way to identify somebody who grew up in a foreign culture is through self-identification, scientific sampling methods on adults may contain bias due to the difficulty in conducting epidemiological studies across broad-based population samples.
While much of the research into TCKs has shown consistent results across geographical boundaries, some international sociologists are critical of the research that "expects there to be one unified 'true' culture that is shared by all who have experiences of growing up overseas".
The parents of TCKs are often highly educated, successful in their careers, and are not likely to divorce. When a group (whether it is the military, a business, government, church, etc.) decides to send somebody to a foreign country, it is making a significant investment. The group wants to send people who will represent it the best, and provide the most value for the investment. TCKs will thus have a higher probability of coming from a family where at least one parent earned a college degree and often an advanced degree. "Almost all" TCK families are deployed to foreign countries as a result of the father's profession, and very few families live in another country primarily due to the mother's occupation.
TCKs also tend to come from families that are closer than non-TCK families. They will also have a smaller likelihood of having divorced parents (divorced parents are unlikely to allow their former spouse to take their child to another country). "Because the nuclear family is the only consistent social unit through all moves, family members are psychologically thrown back on one another in a way that is not typical in geographically stable families." It has been observed that TCKs may be more prone to abuse as the family can become too tight knit. "The strength of [the] family bond works to the benefit of children when parent-child communication is good and the overall family dynamic is healthy. It can be devastating when it is not.... Physical, sexual and emotional abuse may go unnoticed or unacknowledged by others for a variety of reasons, such as misguided notions about 'respecting privacy', or fear of repatriation or family disgrace with colleagues".
TCK's exposure to foreign countries depends largely on parent's sponsoring organization. The sponsor affects many variables such as: how long a family is in a foreign culture, the family's interaction with the host country nationals, how enmeshed the family becomes with local practices, and the family's interaction with people from the home country.
Military brats are the most mobile of TCKs and spend an average of seven years abroad while growing up. While overseas a majority of non-infant and non-toddler military brats live off-base, due to budgeting priorities of military bases, whereas bases tend to house more singles and families with very small children. Approximately 59% of military brats spend more than 5 years in foreign countries. Because the military bases aim for self-sufficiency, those military brats who only live on base tend to be exposed the least to the local culture compared to other TCKs, but a high percentage of military brats have lived off base overseas for years at a time. Also, because of the self-sufficiency of military bases and the distinctiveness of military culture, as well as the rootless lifestyle of moving constantly while growing up, even those military brats who never lived abroad can be isolated significantly from the civilian regional cultures of their "home" country.
While parents of military brats had the lowest level of education of the five categories, approximately 36% of USA military brat TCK families have at least one parent with an advanced degree. This is significantly higher than the general population.
Non-military government TCKs are the most likely to have extended experiences in foreign countries for extended periods. 44% have lived in at least four countries. 44% will also have spent at least 10 years outside of their passport country. Their involvement with locals and others from their passport country depends on the role of the parent. Some may grow up moving from country to country in the diplomatic corps (see Foreign Service Brat) while others may live their lives near military bases.
Missionary Kids (MKs) typically spend the most time overseas, of any TCKs, in one country. 85% of MKs spend more than 10 years in foreign countries and 72% lived in only one foreign country. Of all TCKs, MKs generally have the most interaction with the local populace and the least interaction with people from their passport country. They are also the most likely of the TCKs to integrate themselves into the local culture. 83% of missionary kids have at least one parent with an advanced degree. Missionary kids struggle adjusting to the host culture; the majority of MKs identify mostly with the country in which their parents served. 
Business families (otherwise known as oil or construction brats) also spend a great deal of time in foreign countries. 63% of business TCKs have lived in foreign countries at least 10 years but are more likely than MKs to live in multiple countries. Business TCKs will have a fairly high interaction with their host nationals and with others from their passport country. Many of these "business" families are from oil companies, particularly in the Arab world and in Latin America. Parents who work in the pharmaceutical business typically move to countries such as Switzerland, Singapore, India, China, Japan, or USA. The brookfield Global Relocation Trend survey in 2012 reports that “family concerns” are still the number one reason for early returns during expatriate assignments.
TCK families who do not fit one the above categories include those employed by intergovernmental agencies (for example, the Nuclear Energy Agency, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the International Agency of the Francophonie), international non-governmental organizations (for example, international schools), and local organizations such as hospitals. Other professions include the media and athletics (for example, Wally Szczerbiak). This group typically has spent the least amount of time in foreign countries (42% are abroad for 1–2 years and 70% for less than 5). Again, their involvement with local people and culture can vary greatly. TCKs in this category also might live in an area with a certain ethnic majority other than their own, e.g. an Americanized Arab Muslim living in Chinatown.
TCK parents in this category are the most likely (89%) to hold an advanced degree.
Language and Third Culture Kids
Most international TCKs are expected to speak English and some countries require their expatriate families to be proficient with the English language. This is largely because most international schools use the English language as the norm.
Families tend to seek out schools whose principal languages they share, and ideally one which mirrors their own educational system. Many countries have American schools, French schools, British schools, German Schools and 'International Schools' which often follow one of the three International Baccalaureate programs. These will be populated by expatriates' children and some children of the local upper middle class. They do this in an effort to maintain linguistic stability and to ensure that their children do not fall behind due to linguistic problems. Where their own language is not available, families will often choose English-speaking schools for their children. They do this because of the linguistic and cultural opportunities being immersed in English might provide their children when they are adults, and because their children are more likely to have prior exposure to English than to other international languages. This poses the potential for non-English speaking TCKs to have a significantly different experience from TCKs for whom English is a native language. Research on TCKs from Japan, Denmark, Italy, Germany, the United States and Africa has shown that TCKs from different countries share more in common with other TCKs than they do with their own peer group from their passport country.
A few sociologists studying TCKs, however, argue that the commonality found in international TCKs is not the result of true commonality, but rather the researcher's bias projecting expectations upon the studied subculture. They believe that some of the superficial attributes may mirror each other, but that TCKs from different countries are really different from one another. The exteriors may be the same, but that the understanding of the world around them differs.
In Japan, the use of the term "third culture kids" to refer to children returned from living overseas is not universally accepted; they are typically referred to both in Japanese and in English as kikokushijo, literally "returnee children", a term which has different implications. Public awareness of kikokushijo is much more widespread in Japan than awareness of TCKs in the United States, and government reports as early as 1966 recognised the need for the school system to adapt to them. However, views of kikokushijo have not always been positive; in the 1970s, especially, they were characterised in media reports and even by their own parents as "educational orphans" in need of "rescue" to reduce their foreignness and successfully reintegrate them into Japanese society.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2011)|
Many TCKs take years to readjust to their passport countries. They often suffer a reverse culture shock upon their return, and are often perpetually homesick for their adopted country. Many third culture kids face an identity crisis: they don't know where they come from. It would be typical for a TCK to say that he is a citizen of a country, but with nothing beyond his passport to define that identification for him. Such children usually find it difficult to answer the question, "Where are you from?". Compared to their peers who have lived their entire lives in a single culture, TCKs have a globalized culture. TCKs typically have a global perspective and are flexible both socially and intellectually, as well as able to comfortably engage with those who think and act differently than they do. It is hard for TCKs to present themselves as a single cultured person, which makes it hard for others who have not had similar experiences to accept them for who they are. They know bits and pieces of at least two cultures, yet most of them have not fully experienced any one culture making them feel incomplete or left out by other children who have not lived overseas. They often build social networks among themselves and prefer to socialize with other TCKs.
Studies have found that, although TCKs learn to build relationships to all of the cultures they've experienced, they don't quite have full ownership in any. While TCKs can assimilate elements of each culture into their own life experiences, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background. [page needed] The unique experiences of TCKs among different cultures and various relationships at the formative stage of their development makes their view of the world different from others.
They tend to get along with people of any culture, and develop a chameleon-like ability to become part of other cultures. Adapting to new situations quickly and with confidence is no problem for third-culture kids. Excellent communication and diplomatic skills are what many third-culture kids get out of their experience abroad. These skills help third-culture kids thrive later on, during their academic studies as well as their career.  Some TCKs may also isolate themselves within their own sub-culture, sometimes excluding native children attending their schools, or defining themselves in relation to some "other" ethnic or religious group.
|Type of Work||Missionary||Military||Government||Business||Other|
|Work Setting ||Missionary||Military||Government||Business||Other|
Statistics (U.S. TCKs)
Cognitive and emotional development
- Teenage TCKs are more mature than non-TCKs, but in their twenties take longer than their peers to focus their aims.
- Depression is comparatively prevalent among TCKs.
- TCKs' sense of identity and well-being is directly and negatively affected by repatriation.
- TCKs are highly linguistically adept (not as true for military TCKs).
- A study whose subjects were all "career military brats"—those who had a parent in the military from birth through high school—shows that brats are linguistically adept.
- Like all children, TCKs may experience stress and even grief from the relocation experience.
Education and career
- TCKs are 4 times as likely as non-TCKs to earn a bachelor's degree (81% vs 21%)
- 44% earned undergraduate degree after the age of 22.
- Education, medicine, business management, self-employment, and highly skilled positions are the most common professions for TCKs.
- TCKs are unlikely to work for big business, government, or follow their parents' career choices. "One won't find many TCKs in large corporations. Nor are there many in government ... they have not followed in parental footsteps".
- Useem, Ruth H. "Third Culture Kids: Focus of Major Study". Article 1. TCKWorld.
- Pollock, David C.; Van Reken, Ruth E. (2009). Third culture kids: growing up among worlds, Rev. Ed.. London: Nicholas Brealey. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-85788-525-5.
- Eakin, Kay (1998). "According to my passport, I’m coming home". U.S. Dept of State. p. 18.
- Hymlö, Annika (2002). 'Other' Expatriate Adolescents: A Postmodern Approach to Understanding Expatriate Adolescents among non-U.S. Children, in 'Military Brats and Other Global Nomads', M. Ender, ed.. Portland: Greenwood. pp. 196, 201. ISBN 978-0-275-97266-0.
- Ruth Useem's obituary in Footnotes, the Newsletter of the American Sociological Association, December 2003. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
- Ender, Morten (2002). Beyond Adolescence: The Experiences of Adult Children of Military Parents, in 'Military Brats and Other Global Nomads', M. Ender, ed.. Portland: Greenwood. p. xxv. ISBN 978-0-275-97266-0.
- Hylmö, Annika (2002). Other Expatriate Adolescents: A Postmodern Approach to Understanding Expatriate Adolescents Among Non-U.S. Children, in 'Military Brats and Other Global Nomads', M. Ender, ed.. Portland: Greenwood. pp. 196, 201. ISBN 978-0-275-97266-0.
- Pearce, Richard (2002). Children's International Relocation and the Development Process, in 'Military Brats and Other Global Nomads', M. Ender, ed.. Portland: Greenwood. pp. 157, 168–170. ISBN 978-0-275-97266-0.
- McCaig, Norma (1994). "Growing up with a world view - nomad children develop multicultural skills". Foreign Service Journal: 32–41.[dead link]
- Cottrell, Ann (2002). Educational and Occupational Choices of American Adult Third Culture Kids, in 'Military Brats and Other Global Nomads', M. Ender, ed.. Greenwood. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-275-97266-0.
- Cotrell (2002) p 231[full citation needed]
- Bikos, L.H.; Kocheleva, J., King, D., Chang, G.C., McKenzie, A., Roenicke, C., & Eckard, K. (2009). "A consensual qualitative investigation into the repatriation experiences of young adult, missionary kids.". Mental Health, Religion & Culture. 12 7: 735-754. doi:10.1080/13674670903032637.
- SALZBRENNER, S (09 2013). "Uprooting your children". Expatriates Magazine (2): 24.
- Jordan (2002) p 227.[full citation needed]
- Cottrell (2002) p 233-234. In the study, military dependents were the "most representative of the United States population". Over all, 80% of TCK families had at least one parent with a BA. In 46% of TCK families an advanced degree was held by the father, and in 18% by the mother. p 234.
- Kano Podolsky, Momo (2004-01-31). "Crosscultural upbringing: A comparison of the "third culture kids" framework and "Kaigai/Kikokushijo" studies" (PDF). Gendai Shakai Kenkyū 6: 67–78. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- nCottrell, Ann Baker (2011). Explaining Differences: TCKs and Other CCKs, American and Japanese TCKs in Writing Out of Limbo:International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids. Gene Bell-Villada and Nina Sichel, Editors. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 1-4438-3360-6.
- Davis, Headley, et al. p. 1[full citation needed]
- Cotrell (2002) p237[full citation needed]
- Cotrell (2002) p238[full citation needed]
- Useem RH (2001). Third Culture Kids: Focus of Major Study. International Schools Services.
- Cottrell AB, Useem RH (1993). TCKs Experience Prolonged Adolescence. International Schools Services, 8(1).
- Plamondon, Laila (2008). Third Culture Kids: Factors that Predict Psychological Health after Repatriation. Honors Thesis, Smith College.
- Cottrell AB, Useem RH (1994). ATCKs maintain global dimensions throughout their lives. International Schools Services, 8(4).
- Ender, Morten, "Growing up in the Military" in Strangers at Home: Essays on the effects of living overseas and Coming 'home' to a strange land. Edited Carolyn Smith, Alethia Publications: New York. 1996. p88-90
- Sheppard, Caroline H.; William Steele (2003). "Moving Can Become Traumatic". Trauma and Loss: Research and Interventions. Nat'l Inst for Trauma and Loss in Children. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
- Oesterreich, Lesia (April 2004). "Understanding children: moving to a new home". Iowa State University. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
- Cottrell AB, Useem RH (1993). TCKs Four Times More Likely to Earn Bachelor’s Degrees. International Schools Services, 7(5).
References and further reading
- Bell, Linda (1997). Hidden Immigrants: Legacies of Growing Up Abroad. Cross Cultural Publications/Crossroads. Notre Dame, IN. ISBN 0940121352
- Bikos, L. H., Kocheleva, J., King, D., Chang, G. C., McKenzie, A., Roenicke, C., & ... Eckard, K. (2009). A consensual qualitative investigation into the repatriation experiences of young adult, missionary kids. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 12(7), 735-754. doi:10.1080/13674670903032637
- Blair, Admiral Dennis, Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command. "The Military Culture as an Exemplar of American Qualities" Prepared for Supporting the Military Child Annual Conference, Westin Horton Plaza Hotel, San Diego, California, (July 19, 2000). Retrieved December 3, 2006.
- Britten, Samuel (November 30, 1998) “TCK World: A Comparison of Different "Versions" Of TCKs” Third Culture Kid World. Retrieved December 3, 2006
- Cottrell, Ann Baker (2011). Explaining Differences: TCKs and Other CCKs, American and Japanese TCKs in Writing Out of Limbo:International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids. Gene Bell-Villada and Nina Sichel, Editors. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 1-4438-3360-6.
- Cottrell, Ann and Ruth Hill Useem (1993). TCKs Experience Prolonged Adolescence. International Schools Services, 8(1) Accessed January 5, 2007.
- Davis, P., Headley, K., Bazemore, T., Cervo, J., Sinkinger, P., Windham, M., & Rehfuss, M. (2010). EVALUATING IMPACT OF TRANSITION SEMINARS ON MISSIONARY KIDS' DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, STRESS, AND WELL-BEING. Journal Of Psychology & Theology, 38(3), 186-194.
- Eakin, Kay (1996). "You can't go 'Home' Again" in Strangers at Home: Essays on the effects of living overseas and Coming 'home' to a strange land. Edited Carolyn Smith, Alethia Publications: New York. 1996
- Ender, Morten, "Growing up in the Military" in Strangers at Home: Essays on the effects of living overseas and Coming 'home' to a strange land. Edited Carolyn Smith, Alethia Publications: New York. 1996
- Graham, Cork (2004) "The Bamboo Chest: An Adventure in Healing the Trauma of War" DPP 2004
- Hess DJ (1994). The Whole World Guide to Culture Learning. Intercultural Press, Yarmouth, ME.
- Hervey, Emily (2009). "Cultural Transitions During Childhood and Adjustment to College"
- Jordan, Kathleen Finn (2002). "Identity Formation and the Adult Third Culture Kid " In Morten Ender, ed., “Military Brats and Other Global Nomads”.
- Kalb R and Welch P (1992). Moving Your Family Overseas. Intercultural Press, Yarmouth, ME.
- Kelley, Michelle (2002). “The Effects of Deployment on Traditional and Nontraditional Military Families: Navy Mothers and Their Children” in Morten Ender, ed., “Military Brats and Other Global Nomads”
- Kidd, Julie and Linda Lankenau (Undated) “Third Culture Kids: Returning to their Passport Country” US Department of State. Retrieved December 3, 2006.
- Kohls RL (1996). Survival Kit for Overseas Living. Intercultural Press, Yarmouth, ME.
- Maffini, H. (2011). Sammy's Next Move. Third Culture Kids Press, NY.
- Morten G. Ender, ed. (2002). Military Brats and Other Global Nomads: Growing Up in Organization Families, Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-97266-6
- Pascoe R (1993). Culture Shock: Successful Living Abroad. Graphic Arts, Portland, OR.
- Pearce, (2002). Children's International Relocation and the Development Process. in Morten Ender, ed., “Military Brats and Other Global Nomads”
- Plamondon, Laila. (2008). Third Culture Kids: Factors that Predict Psychological Health after Repatriation. Honors Thesis, Smith College.
- Pollock DC and Van Reken R (2001). Third Culture Kids. Nicholas Brealey Publishing/Intercultural Press. Yarmouth, Maine. ISBN 1-85788-295-4.
- Price, Phoebe. (2002). “Behavior of Civilian and Military High School Students in Movie Theaters”, in Morten Ender, ed., “Military Brats and Other Global Nomads”.
- Reken, Ruth (1996). Religious Culture Shock. in Carolyn Smith "STrangers at Home: Essays on The effects of Living Overseas and Coming Home/"
- Reken, Ruth and Paulette Bethel, Third Culture Kids: Prototypes for Understanding Other Cross-Cultural Kids Retrieved December 3, 2006.
- Seelye HN, Wasilewski JH (1996). Between Cultures: Developing Self-Identity in a World of Diversity. McGraw-Hill Companies. ISBN 0-8442-3305-6.
- Shames GW (1997). Transcultural Odysseys: The Evolving Global Consciousness. Intercultural Press, Yarmouth, ME.
- Simens, Julia (2011). "Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: practical storytelling techniques that will strengthen the global family". Summertime Publishing Company ISBN 1904881343 ISBN 978-1904881346
- Stalnaker, Stan (2002) "Hub Culture: The Next Wave of Urban Consumers", Wiley. ISBN 978-0-470-82072-8
- Storti C (1997). The Art of Coming Home. Intercultural Press, Yarmouth, ME.
- Smith, Carolyn (ed) (1996). World Citizens and "Rubberband Nationals" in Carolyn Smith Strangers at Home: Essays on the Effects of Living Overseas and Coming 'Home' to a Strange Land, New York: Aletheia Publications. ISBN 0-9639260-4-7
- Tyler, Mary (2002). “The Military Teenager in Europe: Perspectives for Health care Providers”, in Morten Ender, ed., “Military Brats and Other Global Nomads”.
- Useem, Ruth et al. (undated) “Third Culture Kids: Focus of Major Study”. International Schools Services. Retrieved December 3, 2006.
- Van Reken, Ruth and Bethel, Paulette M. “’Third Culture Kids: Prototypes for Understanding Other Cross-Cultural Kids”. Retrieved December 3, 2006.
- Wertsch, Mary Edwards (1991). Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress, New York, New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-58400-X
- Williams, Karen and LisaMarie Mariglia, (2002) “Military Brats: Issues and Associations in Adulthood“ in Morten Ender, ed., “Military Brats and Other Global Nomads
- TCK World – Official Home of Dr. Hill Useem's research, sociologist who coined the term "Third Culture Kid"
- Third Culture Kids on ABC News – An interview with Ruth Van Reken, Brice Royer, and Daniela Tudor from TCKID
- TCKID – Non-profit organization and community for Third Culture Kids
- TCKResearch – A resource and community database for researchers
- Worldwide Families | Third Culture Kids – Recent research and current resources
- Expatriates Magazine – Free printed publication for Expatriate professionals and families
- Denizen Magazine – Online magazine created by and dedicated to TCKs
- Cross Cultural Kids – Ruth Van Reken's Prototypes for understanding Third Culture Kids
- Trouble with TCKs - Children's Mental Health Network
- Blog on TCKs
- Struggles TCKs Deal With
- Dealing with Depression as a TCK
- Family & Relationships - TCKs