Different on the inside... Third Culture Kids' transition experiences : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand
Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are children who have spent a significant part of
their upbringing in a country or countries different from their passport country. This
thesis explored the experiences of TCKs growing up abroad, and how this may have
impacted their transition to their passport country, following high school. In particular,
this thesis considered: the benefits of the TCK lifestyle; TCKs’ unique strengths; their
cultural identity development; meaning of home and belonging; acculturation and the
TCKs’ challenges during transition. It is envisioned that through increasing knowledge
and understanding of TCKs, social workers, counselors, tertiary institutions and parents
will be better able to address the specific needs of the TCKs during transition to their
By means of a narrative approach to the research, the participants provided
insights into their TCK lifestyle and the specific challenges they experienced during
their transition back to their passport country. Consideration was given to the theoretical
social work perspectives that can benefit social work practice when supporting TCKs.
Subsequently, the implications for social work practice provision were established.
The research findings identified the many benefits but also challenges to the
TCK lifestyle. Much of the challenges TCKs experienced during transition to their
passport country resulted from their sociocultural adjustment, highlighting the need for
both social and cultural support during their transition. In addition to support, the
findings revealed that the TCK lifestyle, cultural identity, family relationships,
friendships have a significant perceived influence on the TCK’s successful transition to
their passport country.