Many people may not even know that they fall under that category, or that the people around them could be Third Culture Kids (TCKs).  

Third Culture Kids is a relatively new term that was coined during the 1950s and is a growing phenomenon in an ever-increasing globalizing world. But what is a Third Culture Kid?

Ruth Useem was a reputable sociologist and founded the term TCK, alongside David C. Pollock, who created the TCK profile and defined it as:

“a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, a sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.” 

An example of this could be a child who was born in Sweden to Swedish parents but with their parents working abroad in multiple countries, the child has experienced many different cultures. Therefore, the child has not been able to develop roots or a cultural identity relevant to their country of origin or countries they have citizenship in, as well as the country they are currently living in. 

Studies have shown that while TCKs are more open to diversity and can adapt to their surroundings, they struggle to put down roots and create an identity for themselves. Many TCKs experience feelings of detachment, exclusion and loss when it comes to their origin. They feel disconnected from their heritage. An article published by Helen Fail about Third Culture Kids includes interviews with various TCKs, with one interviewee saying: “I still don’t know what to say (when people ask me where I’m from)”.

In an article written by the BBC titled Third Culture Kids: Citizens of Everywhere and Nowhere; a family therapist by the name Lois Bushong, who grew up as a missionary child in Latin America, talked about the constant farewells they experienced. “I felt as if a small part of my own heart was torn out each time I had to tell close friends goodbye, knowing that I would probably never see them again.”

With a rise in globalization, societies increasingly become more integrated and more multicultural, leading to a growing population of TCKs, that will become more and more prevalent in the future. Many TCKs today are a result of expat parents, constantly moving around with international firms, businesses or organizations. In this sense, TCKs are both a victim and beneficiary of globalization. Therefore, we must start a conversation and bring attention to their experiences, because TCKs are the future.

Notice from the UNYA Aalborg Journalism Team: The following article was authored by emerging journalists who participated in the workshop titled “Ethics in Pixels and Ink,” which focused on media ethics. This piece represents the learnings from the workshop by applying ethical journalistic standards. More about the workshop here.