The phenomena of the Third Culture
The term Third Culture originated in the 1950’s by sociologist Ruth Useem. Useem was living in India, focusing her study on the children of parents who had moved abroad for their careers. Studying the children of expatriates living outside of their passport country, she recognized patterns emerging related to their identity development and called these characteristics the Third Culture.
In the 1970’s David Pollock was able to create more accessible models to describe the phenomena of the Third Culture. Pollock’s focus turned to the Third Culture Kid (TCK) and how this lifestyle and resulting phenomena can affect the development of identity.
Who are TCK?
“Children who accompany their parents into another culture [usually for a parent’s career choice.]”
-Dr. Ruth Hill Useem, Sociologist, Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University, Originator of the term
“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture(s). Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background. ”
-David C. Pollock, developer of the TCK Profile, founder, Interaction, Inc., co-author Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds
Two distinct elements of the TCK lifestyle include:
- High rates of mobility
- Multiple culturally immersive experiences
Challenges Associated with these elements:
- Moving is associated with loss and uncertainty
- Saying goodbye (on multiple occasions potentially) to friends/teachers/coaches
- Changing schools
- Fear of the unknown
- Identity development and self-esteem
Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring
feelings of loss. To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind.