Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds

2001, 333 pp
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What happens to children when they are raised outside their parents’ home country?

In Third Culture Kids, David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken explore systematically and compassionately the experiences of those who have become known as “third culture kids” (TCKs)—children who grow up or spend a significant part of their childhood living abroad. Rich with real-life anecdotes from TCKs, this is one of the first books to fully examine the nature of the TCK experience and its effect on maturing, developing a sense of identity, and adjusting to one’s “passport country” upon return.

The authors begin by defining TCKs and describing the nature of the cross-cultural experience that has formed their personalities. Pollock and Van Reken then move on to the “TCK Profile”—personal characteristics, practical skills, the experience of rootlessness and restlessness, personal relationships, developmental issues and unresolved grief—and include a thorough discussion of the benefits and challenges of the TCK life. The authors are careful not to gloss over the difficulties; they make clear the toll taken by the many hurdles, painful endings, and anxious beginnings in the lives of young TCKs. But they also show that the benefits are commensurate with the challenges: the breadth of perspective gained and the richness of experience and skills involved in adapting to a different culture.

In the second section, Pollock and Van Reken offer suggestions for what TCKs, parents, and sponsoring organizations can do to maximize the benefits of the TCK experience—to help the TCK build a strong personal foundation, deal effectively with transition, meet educational needs and, ultimately, return home.

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