Think Tank 2011: 6 TCK Trends

Category: Third Culture Kids

TCKThinkersThose of us caring for Third Culture Kids and families in global transition know that we can’t possibly be relevant if we don’t understand new dynamics, challenges, opportunities facing today’s Third Culture Kids. And for all of us older than 18, I think we do a lot of guessing about this new generation of transient individuals.

This is why WorldVenture TCK Coordinator Sheryl O’Bryan and I invited 9 great TCK minds to a Think Tank held in Denver, Colorado last weekend to help us determine what today’s Third Culture Kids aged 18-25 really look like.

TCKThinkTank2011Think Tank participants ages 18-62 years old offered insights from their work with TCKs or lives of TCKs. From both personal observation and information gleaned from an internet survey of over 500 respondents, we were able to isolate some general trends in today’s TCKs.

TCKTableBased on these changes, we reviewed foundational pieces on the Third Culture Kid, yes, including David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken’s definition of the Third Culture Kid and the Third Culture Kid profile. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely a plethora of insight still to be drawn from Pollock and Van Reken’s work on the Third Culture. However, our world is changing at an unprecedented pace and for us to support TCKs and equip those working with this growing population, we can no longer neglect these rapidly emerging trends.


Halfway through our time, Sheryl and I discussed three trends that kept coming up in conversation. You can listen in on a few minutes of our discussion by clicking the play button below, or Download the MP3 directly.


It will likely take us several months to sort out our notes and strategize on how best to use the wealth of information that came out of last week’s Think Tank but let me leave you with just 6 of the trends that came up in conversation at the TCK Think Tank 2011:

  • There is a large population of non-western kids within the TCK culture. Much of the research done on Third Culture Kids is geared toward the North American TCK, but the growing Third Culture is not necessarily North American.
  • There is an increasing percentage of TCKs with citizenships other than that/those of their parents.
  • Technology is transforming the way TCKs stay in contact with their passport country and culture. With the emergence of social media, real time news, and access to current television, movies and music, TCKs today are far more current on the trends of their passport culture. Clothing styles, slang and cultural trends are not only known by TCKs, they participate in those trends thus reducing the visual difference TCKs have with their passport countries.
  • This generation of TCKs lives in a postmodern world, yet the foundational research is focused on TCKs of the modern world. We must draw correlations between post modern youth and TCKs.
  • Parents of Third Culture Kids are choosing new (or several) educational options for their children. Research can no longer only focus on TCKs in international schools and boarding schools.
  • Families in cross-cultural transition are more aware of the Third Culture Kid concept although do not necessarily have a correct understanding of the definition or its implications.
  • TCKs, especially international business kids and those with western citizenships, are returning to their passport countries far more regularly than TCKs 15 or 20 years ago. With visits “home” being limited to holiday times, TCKs are getting a superficial exposure to their passport country without the necessity of being faced with the responsibilities of life in their passport culture.

As we gather and process our remarks, I’d love to hear from you! What are some of the changing characteristics you've noticed in today's TCKs?


PS: Listed above are just six of the changes observed in today's TCKs...okay, there are seven. I got excited and threw in another for good measure...enjoy! I will be elaborating on each of these and many more of the new TCK trends observed in our TCK Think Tank 2011 in future articles and blog posts, so watch this space!

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