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Third Culture Kids: A Literature Review

Third culture kids (TCKs) are identified as individuals who were raised, for the majority of the time, in a culture other than that of their parents [1]. Bonebright [1] investigates various aspects of TCK livelihood and puts an emphasis on their ability to relate to other people and cultures. According to the research, only 10% of individuals participating expressed attunement and investment into the community and culture they live in [1]. Bonebright [1] also finds that TCK individuals are more likely to relate to one another than to either of the cultures that had an influence on their upbringing. At the same time, they are easier to adapt to various cultures when compared to individuals raised in a mono-cultural environment [1]. These findings provide an impetus for HDR practices, implying that TCK individuals would be excellent employees for international corporations and professions that require cross-border movement.

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The matter of the relation of TCKs to monocultural groups is further developed and discussed by Hutchinson and Pang [4]. They explain the process through the communication theory of identity, highlighting the fact that TCKs often are hampered in communicating their identity to others and to themselves, leaving an identity gap to be internally negotiated. Should the negotiation occur successfully, it will cause the formation of a third space, as a combination of personal and communal levels [4]. This space would be different from the ones created by monolithic cultures that their peers may grow up in. Thus, Hutchinson and Pang [4] offer theoretical explanation and support to Bonebright’s [1] findings, strengthening the evidence base for both.

Hutchinson and Pang’s [4] assessment that TCKs that fail to negotiate the third space may result in being culturally confused is challenged by Moore and Barker [3]. They assert that the resulting identity in any TCKs is better described from a multiculturalist perspective than that of confusion [3]. They describe their present cultural identity as fluid and mobile, intersecting with findings by Bonebright [1], and state TCKs are capable of shifting between different cultural identities depending on the circumstances [3]. Moore and Barker [3] state that TCKs simply possess more than a single cultural identity, and between shifts, they operate each facet as an insider rather than an outsider. These findings challenge the assertion promoted by the previous sources claiming that individuals either form a hybrid culture or remain challenged until they do. However, the study by Moore and Barker is relatively small-scaled based on the number of participants, which limits the universality of their conclusions.

The subject of openness and acceptance of cultural and religious worldviews of others in relation to TCKs is discussed in the article by Melles and Frey [2]. Their findings correlate to those of Bonebright [1], finding that TCKs are much more likely to accept and tolerate other peoples’ religious worldviews. The researchers assert that this tolerance is the result of exposure to many different cultures and religions during the upbringing stage. As a result, these people are more likely to find common ground with various monocultural individuals, serving as a bridge and an intermediary between cultures [2]. This conclusion supports the HRD vector of implementing TCKs as international employees due to their ability to adapt to other peoples’ viewpoints and beliefs. The number of participants included over 250 individuals from all over the world, thus providing the research with needed variability to extrapolate the results.

Reference List

D. A. Bonebright, “Adult third culture kids: HRD challenges and opportunities,” Human Resource Development International, vol. 13, issue 3, pp. 351–359, 2010.

E. A. Melles, L. L. Frey, “Promoting religious acceptance: the relationship between intercultural competence and religious attitudes among Third Culture Kids,” Mental Health, Religion & Culture, vol. 20, issue 8, pp. 812–826, 2018.

A. M. Moore, G. G. Barker, “Confused or multicultural: Third culture individuals’ cultural identity,” International Journal of Intercultural Relations, vol. 36, pp. 553–562, 2011.

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K. Pang, C. Hutchinson. (2018). “An application of the communication theory of identity: Third culture kids,” Pepperdine Journal of Communication Research [Online], vol. 6, pp. 20–27. Web.

Footnotes

  1. D. A. Bonebright, “Adult third culture kids: HRD challenges and opportunities,” Human Resource Development International, vol. 13, issue 3, pp. 351–359, 2010.
  2. E. A. Melles, L. L. Frey, “Promoting religious acceptance: the relationship between intercultural competence and religious attitudes among Third Culture Kids,” Mental Health, Religion & Culture, vol. 20, issue 8, pp. 812–826, 2018.
  3. A. M. Moore, G. G. Barker, “Confused or multicultural: Third culture individuals’ cultural identity,” International Journal of Intercultural Relations, vol. 36, pp. 553–562, 2011.
  4. K. Pang, C. Hutchinson. (2018). “An application of the communication theory of identity: Third culture kids,” Pepperdine Journal of Communication Research [Online], vol. 6, pp. 20–27.

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