TCKs- What Still Needs to be Done?

While studying lifespan development models, it was noted that there was a very strong male bias when it came to such models because they were developed from a male point of view .This point is very important in the study of TCKs because it has been discovered that it is women who grew up in several cultures that have a more difficult job of creating their identities. Dr. Gilligan was very pivotal in developing a feminist-centred method of lifespan development which has been very useful when studying TCKs. An important point Dr. Gilligan made was the fact that ” women defined themselves in terms of relationships while men defined themselves in terms of separation and achievement.” (Walters,2006)

Although the repatriation programmes are a good social support service, to my skeptical mind I wonder if they are genuinely effective. One test did attempt to measure stress levels before the programme commenced and it was found that after 13 days stress rates had dropped considerably. (Davis et al., 2010) However, I believe this does not tell us much about whether the subject has overcome stage 5 successfully.It would be beneficial for a follow-up of these adolescents to be done to see whether the results were long-lasting.

Also, while these programmes were established for missionary kids, not all TCKs are missionary children or even Christian, therefore such programmes must be adapted to be able to include children with other belief systems. Some people believe that the term TCK “may appear to stem from a western ethnocentric attitude” and I agree with this to some extent. (Walters 2009) The programmes I researched only dealt with Westerners; Canadians and Americans specifically. However, these days the number of TCKs from other countries is actually be increasing so it is a good idea to do research on them too.

Race is an important point that was not considered. Race has been suggested as a factor and, as an ethnic minority myself, I believe my personal development to be different from a Caucasian-Canadians for example so I would like to see more research focused on visible minorities.Black and White women have unique experiences of womanhood which will affect their development (Walters,2006). Therefore, we must study these racial differences and diverse background studies must be done.

I found it surprising that men were not touched on much at all. The case studies I read were all concerning women and, while I applaud them for helping women find their voice, I believe they should invest the same amount of time into helping male TCKs find theirs.

The main reason I decided on this topic was to study how TCKs develop and to also see whether what I learned is true for me. What I found out was that TCKs do have a different developmental process from non TCKs, one which is made more complex by their cultural experiences. They undergo the normal adolescence development but also have to contend with disruptions. The programs that have been formed are a start but I believe there needs to be more developments done in order for the programmes to be really successful. TCKs have a lot to offer the globalizing world so their uniqueness must be nurtured.


Christ, J.L., & Cigularova, D. (2007). The Expanding Awareness of Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids. (Graphic Illustration).NAFSA Annual Conference. Retrieved from

Davis, P., Headley, K., Bazemore, T., Cervo, J., Sickinger, P., Windham, M., & Relfuss, M. (1993). Evaluating Impact of Transition Seminars on Missionary Kids’ Depression, Anxiety, Stress and Well-Being. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 38, 186-194.

Limberg, D. (2011). Third Culture Kids: Implications for Professional School Counseling. Professional School Counseling. Retrieved from

Santrock, J. W., MacKenzie-Rivers, A., Leung, K., & Malcomson, T. (2008). Life-span Development, 3rd Canadian edition. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Walters, K.A. (2006). A Story to Tell: The Identity Development of Women Growing up as Third Culture Kids (Masters Thesis). Retrieved from


6 thoughts on “TCKs- What Still Needs to be Done?

  1. This is really interesting. I’ve never really thought of dividing the TCK experience based on gender, though I personally find differences between people of different ethnicity. Of course the country where you were born or are a citizen of is also going to have a huge bearing on how you see the world. I also think TCKs who have grown up in more ‘developed’ countries tend to have a very different experience from those who have grown up in ‘developing’ countries. Also, the number of countries they have grown up in (just 1 apart from their passport country, or more), and the kind of TCKs they are (for example military kids or diplomatic kids) are going to be different than the children of school teachers, or humanitarian workers for instance.
    I guess more studies need to be done on TCKs eventually because though we have similar experiences, some things do differentiate us (and that does not have to do with just our experiences in different countries).

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I agree with what you’ve written and I do believe wholeheartedly that so much more research needs to be done. I am from a ‘developing’ country and when I did some research on TCKs there was nothing written about TCKs from the developing world, which was quite disheartening. I am working on some TCK research so hopefully I’ll be writing more about TCKs in the near future:)

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