TCKs and Identity Issues

One of the most important issues regarding TCKs is their quest for identity. Identity has been defined as “the stable, consistent, and reliable sense of who one is and what one stands for in the world.” (Walters,2006)

Identity is “shaped by the relationship with the dominant culture of the host or of the home and the transition of coping with highly mobile experiences.” (Christ & Cigularova,2007). Our identity encompasses our values, beliefs, behaviours and how we interact with others. If one does not have a sense of belonging, as is the case among most TCKs, then one does not have a real sense of identity and fails to successfuly emerge from stage five of Erikson’s model. It is important
to note that when it comes to identity development, a TCKs development is greatly impacted by exposure to cultures other than their own. The type of culture is important, for example is it collectivistic or individualistic? (Walters,2006). TCK’s face many questions about who they were and how they should behave and these questions are more pronounced if the TCK is from an individualistic Western society but has lived in a collectivistic society, as is common in Asia, Africa and South America. The type of culture will affect how a child grows(Davis et al., 1993) Santrock, Mackenzie-Rivers, Leung &Malcomson say that identity development is both complicated and prolonged (2008). Although it is important during adolescence, it doesn’t stop there and in fact continues until old age.

The importance of identity development in adolescence is that if an adolescent cultivates a healthy sense of self, they are able to become versatile, easily
adaptable to society , especially regarding changes in society, careers and relationships. (Santrock, Mackenzie-Rivers, Leung &Malcomson,2008)

The transitional process often deals with the TCK constantly comparing their old school(s) with their current one. They lack any sense of belonging and often experience reverse culture shock. They have issues with making friends and maintaining relationships and this often leads to a drop in grades, frequent absences from school, self-isolation and the tendency to surround themselves with other TCKs. (Limberg, 2011.) Some even consider suicide as they don’t see themselves as fitting in (Walters). They may also put up a false self in order to be accepted. This is worrying and the results can’t be healthy (Walter , 2009). TCK’s may feel socially marginalized. In addition, oftentimes adolescence is prolonged in TCKs.They tend to feel out of step with their peers especially in their late teens and early 20s. (Walters, 2006) TCK’s returning home feel like”hidden immigrants.” (Walters ,2009).


3 thoughts on “TCKs and Identity Issues

  1. In the book You Wouldn’t Understand Sarah Pearce points out that there is very little cultural material for TCKs – she would bring artefacts and stories from her students’ first cultures into the classroom, but the kids were not living those experiences and their teacher’s implied assumptions grated. There is an urgent need for TCK literature!

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