TCKS - Who Are These People?

Third culture kids (TCK) are “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. (Useem 1973).

A TCK is “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, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.” (Pollock and Van Reken 2009)

TCKs include children whose parents work outside their home country. This might be in the military, at an embassy, in the diplomatic corp, in ministry, or for a business….

A cross-cultural kid (CCK) is “a person who is living or has lived in—or meaningfully interacted with—two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during childhood (up to age 18).” (Pollock and Van Reken 2009)

In addition to TCKs, there are also children who are CCKs without being TCKs, these might be the friends of your children at school.

This group includes:

Note: Children are often in more than one of these groups at the same time. For example, a traditional TCK whose parents are from two different countries; a TCK who was adopted in the host country but is expected to adjust to their new passport country on furloughs. This helps us understand the growing complexity of the issues we face in our changing world.

Works Cited

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds (2009 revised edition) by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken

Cultural Challenges in Education: The Influences of Cultural Factors in School Learning edited by Cole S. Bremback and Walker H. Hill. From the article Third Cultural Factors in Educational Change by Ruth Useem.

Cross Cultural Kids Blog Ruth E. Van Reken’s blog

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