Global Nomads

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Global Kid – On the move !

Third Culture Kids (TCK) stands for children who are raised in a different culture than their parents’. Third Culture Kid term first emerged in the 1950s after Dr. John Useem and Ruth Hill published their study about families who raised their children while living overseas. Basically the family’s culture represent the first culture, the country of the residence brings the second culture and the children eventually develop a culture between the two which is the third culture. Puerto Rican families in NYC, Turkish Immigrants in Berlin or North Africans in Paris, all represent third culture kid families, to name but a few in our modern history.  The most common third culture kids are likely to be from military families, foreign service families and missionary families. Unfortunately, most TCKs are not considered to be integral part of the countries they grow up in (Useem, 1993)

“A third-culture kid is an individual who has spent a significant part of the developmental years (ages 0-18) in a culture other than that of the parents.” Pollock, 1997 “Third-culture kids are described as individuals who have spent a significant part of their adolescent years in cultures other than the culture of their parents; developing a sense of belonging to all of the cultures they have been exposed to while not claiming full ownership to any ” Fail, 1996.

“Third culture kids’ are those who do not feel as if they have an ancestral (ie first or ‘home’) or host-country (ie second) culture after having lived in another society/country for at least one year” (Willis 1985, Useem 1993

” Third culture kids are described as those who live simultaneously in a Both/And-yet-Neither/Nor culture.” Kwon, 2006

“Third Culture Kids occupy the cultural space between the culture of their parents’ and that of the environment they went to school in” (Useem & Downie 1976)

Third culture kids can be dfined as “sojourner children, or as the children of sojourners” Peterson, 2009

“Third Culture Kids [are] an example of a people whose experience and cultural identity cannot be understood within the limiting [traditional] frameworks of culture” Pollock & Van Reken 2009


Research findings
“TCKs can experience problems in returning home because, ‘They may have replaced a need for stability and a preference for settling down with a preference for mobility” (Selmer and Lam, 2004: 432).

” Third culture individuals as having significantly higher social sensitivity than mono-cultured individuals, while mono-cultured individuals reported higher emotional sensitivity” Lyttle and Berger, 2010

“Third culture kids tend to have a tremendous ability to adapt to new cultures, but at times a cost: the price of never being completely at home in a culture, as a fish in water.” Hayward, 2008

“TCKs score higher on the dimension of Openmindedness and Cultural Empathy and score lower on Emotional Stability.”Dewaelea and van Oudenhoven, 2009

in TCKs, “Multiple repatriations (i.e., parents moving back to the US between jobs) is related negatively to positive affect in men, and increases levels of authoritarianism in women” Peterson and Plamondon, 2009

Third Culture Kids and Language Use

Third culture kids and the family members share the same language. After moving to the new country however, each family member learn the new language in different speed. Younger children who can master the new languages the fastest, will be more productive. This might naturally cause the young children to look down on or criticize their parents instead of encouraging them. This situation makes the transition more painful for all family members.(Pollock & Van Reken, 1999)