Third Culture Kids

Third Culture Kids (TCK) refers to an individual who has spent a significant part of their lives outside their countries of origin in an alien culture and develops a sense of relationship to all the cultures without having full ownership of any particular culture. The life experience of such individuals incorporate elements from each culture but owes the sense of belonging to none (Pollock, 1988). Adults who have gone through such experiences during their development years are known as Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCK).

TCKs go through different cultural experiences before having the opportunity to develop and establish their cultural identity. The concept of “third culture kids” is derived from the three possible cultures in the lives of TCKs. The first culture of TCKs is the culture of their parent’s country of origin (Pollock et al, 2010). The second culture is the culture of the place where their parents reside after relocating from their place of origin. The third culture is the combination of the first and second cultures. Most Third Culture Kids are bilingual and multilingual as they learn several languages during their exposure to different cultures.

They acquire these languages in their interaction with other children, in schools, at marketplaces, and in their new neighborhood (Langford, 2012). The best examples of a Third Culture Kid is the president of the United States, Barack Obama, born in Hawaii but spent parts of his life in Indonesia and other different culture. TCKs express some form of hypersensitivity to the cultures around them. Third Culture Kids’ hypersensitivity to surroundings is more a result of their upbringing, rather than personal insecurities.

Third culture kids are children of business people, diplomats, missionaries and the military. Due to their parents’ careers, they are forced to move from one culture to the other during their development age. Their unique upbringing exposes them to diverse cultural aspects such as different ways of life, languages, foods, religions and diverse ethnic groups. This gives them an expanded view of looking into different situations. These kids are hypersensitive to their surrounding expressing easy understanding of situations around them due to their diverse stocks of knowledge. Research has established that most TCKs score high on open-mindedness on different cultures.

Most speak more than one language as a result of the experience gained during their upbringing in diverse cultures. Their stocks of knowledge give them rules of interpreting the world around them including the social and institutional relationships. Third culture children acquire the diverse stocks of knowledge due to the necessity for adaptation to the expectations of each culture (Rauwerda, 2012).

The hypersensitive behavior towards different cultures in Third Culture Kids is as a result of exposure to diverse culture during their upbringing. The sociological imagination allows them to articulate their wide experiences in a transitory environment when viewing other new cultures which they are exposed to. They are able to learn people’s behavior easily through grasping people’s history, biography and the relations between the societies. According to Langford, (2012), third Culture Kids have increased tolerance towards different cultures than kids who are only exposed to one culture.

Due to their upbringing, they are able to adapt to new cultures more easily by behaving appropriately as per the new culture expectations since they are more experienced to consistent changes from one culture to another. Cultural shocks have limited effect on these kids since their adaptability levels are high. The high tolerance of other cultures exhibited by third culture kids during their upbringing is out of necessity for the maintenance of healthy social life in the new culture or environment.

Third culture kids have a third dimension view of the world. As the concept of the third culture implies that these children have three culture. The amount of hand on experiences acquired throughout their upbringing in multiple cultures gives them a comprehensive view and understanding of the world. Writers on cross-cultural studies such Khaled Hosseini have done works which express their three-dimension knowledge on diverse cultures from their direct experience in different cultures during their upbringing as third culture kids. Cross-cultural sensitivity led to cultural intelligence among the TCKs. Adequate cultural intelligence gives TCKs the capacity to function effectively across all cultures dimensions including ethnic, national and organizational cultures (Dewaele et al, 2009).

Third culture kids are hypersensitive to their surroundings due to their high levels of general adjustment to these surroundings. They are sensitive to cultural changes and adapt easily due to their extensive exposure to different cultures. However, too much exposure to different cultures can result in the lack of cultural balance. Exposure to diverse cultures may bring confusion and lack of sense of belonging to a particular culture. Identity problems can lead to confused cultural loyalties where the kids cannot point out their culture of origin or identify with certain cultural practices.

The multi-cultural kids, therefore, feel left out and become hypersensitive to their new environment. These children may face confusion in the fields of politics, patriotism, and cultural values (Bagnall, 2012). However, multicultural kids suffer from painful awareness of reality. This is because they are influenced by diverse cultures throughout their childhood and cannot identify with one particular culture.

According to Espinetti, (2011), these kids also face difficulties in adjusting to adult life. The feeling rootlessness and restlessness common to third culture kids can make the transition to adulthood a challenging experience. Such upbringing which eliminates the sense of identity in a child can make a person hypersensitive to other new cultures considering the harm they have inflicted in his life.

Third cultural kids may display a hypersensitivity behavior due to the discrimination experiences during their childhood. Hostile exposures during their upbringing hardens TCKs increasing their adaptability. Growing in foreign cultures away from their original homeland multi-cultural children are exposed to forms of racial or ethnic discriminations by the people of a foreign cultural since they are seen as outsiders (Pollock et, al 2010).

Exposure to discrimination at an early age hardens these kids making them adapt to other cultures and overcome any forms of discrimination. Exposure to discriminative cultures can serve the hardening purpose to third culture kids. Instead of inflicting a wrong cultural impression on a victim it may harden the victim and promote his capacity to adapt to hard situations involving discrimination or other harmful treatments due to a person’s cultural identity. However, I don’t advocate for the discrimination of individuals with foreign cultures to harden or prepare them for hardships ahead (Bagnall, 2012).

The upbringing of TCKs plays a significant role in their behavior. When growing up, these children may have to go through happy moments due to things they see in different foreign countries such as in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Their education, political and social nature will be positively affected. Some of these countries have people who practice many traditions; this will affect the child positively as they grow up as a Third Culture Kids? (TCK) hypersensitivity to the surroundings will be raised as they have been through many traditions hence, trust the people and the surrounding (Altbach, 2016).

Where kids have seen people dancing, sharing of what they have, friendly individuals who live in communities that bring them together and they will be challenged to love each other and other people in the new areas.

Meeting different people in different regions and places are such an experience some people love having their holidays in diverse locations every time. New environments bring about new experiences, and the feeling is exciting. Also, movement from countries to countries teaches one new places and new traditions which improve one’s physical and psychological capabilities. Where there are friendly neighbors, they are invited, and sharing and celebration are brought about new friends and happy lives.

Most of the parents who move from countries to countries are very learned and hence the children are under the intense pressure to do the same. These kids are under pressure from both the parents and their inner self to work and perform better to get their parents level of education or more. Hence they develop the hypersensitivity from within themselves. They are likely to work harder in school and make good grades despite the changing environment.

Many of such kids are going to consider themselves lucky from the intense attention and respect they garner among their peers due to their knowledge of different countries. Every human being feels that they are responsible for moving a pitch higher than their predecessors. Hence, most of the third culture people will move to study or work in foreign countries. Therefore, they have leaned individuals their kids will want to rise higher above their parents in education; we can say they are more focused in schools.

Third culture kids (TCK) are diversified children with precious childhood due to experiences in different environments in the different countries they have traveled they, therefore, have unique skills and knowledge as compared to the less traveled kids. The locals understanding of the potential of these children who have third culture lifestyle will help improve and enrich the experience (Triebel, 2016). Through this, the children can gain self-esteem and self-confidence making them use their different knowledge and experiences for their betterment increasing creativity and innovation. The TCK ought to be taught the benefits of remaining humble and respectful to everyone around them, and the results will be impressive and successful adults.
However, TCKs do not always express hypersensitivity I a positive way.

Cultural diverse kids brought up in violent environments or during wars might express negative effects of their exposures. Some countries have been through the war when that child goes to a new country they are still traumatized, and unless they are taken through a psychological therapy, the persons will never be able to recover and go back to their normal lives. The kids are likely to feel irritable, blame, guilt, helplessness about the whole situation on the war front, in fact; they are struggling to love and trust anymore.

Cognitive effects such as disbelief, confusion nightmare, worry, dissociation, impaired concentration and impaired decision-making ability but with new countries and new friends one will be able to love and trust again hence the benefit of changing environment (Berne, 2016).

Despite the arguments for the thesis, there are some counterargument for the thesis. It is clearly explained in the first section of the essay that the thesis bears some truth. As the child continues to change the environment, in which the child in question grows hypersensitivity increases. Even though the first section of the essay has argued with the support of the hypothesis, it is not always true that third culture kids hypersensitivity to surrounding results from their upbringing. This section explains in a contradicting manner with the first section. The primary argument of this section aggress that third culture kids have high hypersensitivity to their surroundings and it is caused by personal insecurity rather than their upbringing.

Precisely, in this part of this discussion, an argument is raised that hypersensitivity results from personal insecurity. Before going into details of how personal insecurity causes hypersensitivity, it serves great importance to give a definition of personal insecurity and hypersensitivity. Since the focus of this discussion is hypersensitive, culture hypersensitivity refers to high-level understanding and adapting to other community cultures that in most cases is associated with positive effects on the third culture kids (Lijadi, ; Van Schalkwyk, 2014). One primary effect of third cultural kids is that children have a vast knowledge of different types of different cultural thus coping with various kinds of cultural is not a hard task for the kids.

Since an understanding of cultural hypersensitivity has been provided, providing a definition of personal insecurities plays a vital role in bringing out how personal insecurities results to third cultural kids hypersensitivity.

Personal insecurities also referred to as emotional instability or insecurity is a feeling of general unease or nervousness that in most cases are triggered by perceiving of oneself to be susceptible or inferior in some way. In other words, personal insecurity is a sense of vulnerability or instability, which forms a threat to individual’s self-image or ego. Following the definition was given, when a child is subjected to different cultural, there exists a high probability that the child will develop a feeling of being inferior (Langford, 2012).

For instance, if a child relocates from a third world country to a first world country, the child is likely to have a sense if inferior which in a way makes the child experience some difficulties in adopting with the wealthy kids family. Since there exists no option for the kid in question survival apart from mingling with the kids in the first world country, the child will be forced to adopt the living standards of the current country’s cultural.

Following the explanation provided, when the child faces some challenges before becoming a full member of the society. Even though the problem presents some adverse effects to the kid, the fact that the child finally is incorporated into the new community enhances the hypersensitivity of the individual towards that particular cultural. As it has been noted personal insecurity results to a third culture kid hypersensitivity to surrounding since the frequent change of child environment leads in a child growing anxiety and diminishing ego. Anxiety and never ending ego results due to the factors discussed below.

To start with, as a child change individual’s environment, hypersensitivity is cultivated by the fact that the child in question is anxious to learn more of the cultural in which the individual has moved. Due to this mobility, the child sense of understanding of differences that exists between different cultural is enhanced. According to Selmer ; Lauring, (2014), understanding of these differences third artistic child can appreciate other cultures and readily acknowledges the cultural aspects of other regions.

With this reference, the child hypersensitivity is enhanced. The presence of child’s anxiety because of personal insecurity is seen enhancing the aspect of hypersensitivity in a child. Additionally, frequent live style changes make a child learn different languages. The act of learning various cultural languages increases child hypersensitivity in that the child understands various cultural aspects.

However, we cannot conclude that individual insecurities prompt the hypersensitivity behavior in the third culture kids since the arguments for the above statement do not carry convincing evidence. Despite the arguments by proponents of personal insecurity arguments, the study has established that individual insecurities merely contribute to the hypertensive behavior. The upbringing of these TCKs are the main factor behind their hypersensitive behavior. Diverse experiences and exposure during their upbringing contributes to the hypersensitivity.

In conclusion, the study has established that the upbringing of third culture kids is the main cause of their hypersensitivity behavior as they are subjected to diverse culture during their development years. However, some individual insecurity have contributed to the hypersensitivity behavior. Even though personal insecurities sound a negative feeling cultivated in an individual due to various life challenges that the person is subjected to as the person mostly a child grows, as the kid tries to overcome personal insecurities the ability of the child to self-reflect, and consider the self about the others is cultivated.

The mentioned values are improved as the child is exposed to different cultural due to change the cultural environment (Tarique, ; Weisbord, 2013). Following the facts provided in this section, it is faithful to the fact that personal insecurity also contributes third cultural kid’s hypersensitivity. It should, however, be noted that the way in which personal danger raises hypersensitivity is, however, different from the way in which hypersensitivity results from upbringing. Lastly, from the two sections of the discussion provided, third cultural kid’s hypersensitivity is cultivated by both the upbringing of the child and a child’s feeling of personal insecurities.


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Selmer, J., & Lauring, J. (2014). Self-initiated expatriates: An exploratory study of adjustment of adult third-culture kids vs. adult mono-culture kids. Cross Cultural Management, 21(4), 422-436.

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Triebel, C. J. (2016). A Third Culture Kid Theology.

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