Difference between Third Culture Kid and Cross Culture Kid

TCK Friends & Dating Cross Cultural Kid (CCK) vs. Third Culture Kid (TCK)

A Cross Culture Kid (CCK) has been defined by Ruth Van Reken as ;

“a person who is living or who has lived in – or meaningfully interacted with – two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during childhood (up to age 18)”. (Pollock and Van Reken, 2009:31).

There are many groups included under the umbrella term Cross Culture Kid such as:

  • Traditional Third Culture Kids
  • Domestic TCKs
  • International adoptees
  • Children of minorities
  • Bi/Multicultural children
  • Children of borderlands
  • Bi/multiracial children
  • Educational CCKs
  • Children of immigrants
  • Children of refugees

A Traditional Third Culture Kid (TCK) has been defined as;

“children who move into another culture with parents due to a parent’s career choice.” (Pollock and Van Reken, 2009:31).

There are fewer groups under the umbrella of Traditional Third Culture Kid these include:

  • Foreign Service
  • Corporate Brats
  • Military Brats
  • Missionary Kids

CCKs and TCKs share two main commonalities:

  • Cross-cultural lifestyles
  • High mobility

Third Culture Kids are different to CCK in two ways:

  • Expected repatriation
  • System identity (belong to a sponsoring organisation such as missionary/military)

In listing the various groups that fall under the umbrella of Cross Cultural Kids it can be seen that Third Culture Kids are in fact much the same as a Cross-Cultural Kid. All the groups mentioned all share a cross–cultural lifestyle and high mobility. However, the TCK also has two further factors which are unique to their experience in that they are expected to return home at some point and they identify with their sponsoring organisation whether that is military, missionary, corporate, or foreign service.

It is also important to note that children can often be in more than one of these groups at any one time, for example a TCK who is also part of a minority group or a child of immigrants whose parents are from two different cultures.

By recognising this we can begin to understand the complexity of the cross cultural lifestyle experience and why it is very hard to neatly categorise this experience which has potentially so many variants.  

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