Third-culture individuals

Authored by: Gina G. Barker

The Routledge Companion to Migration, Communication, and Politics

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138058149
eBook ISBN: 9781315164472
Adobe ISBN:


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Third-culture individuals are men and women who lived in a country other than that of their nationality during their developmental years. Becoming socialized into their home culture and host culture(s) simultaneously, they form a multicultural identity. Since this identity is derived largely from their atypical, mobile upbringing involving multiple transitions as children of corporate employees, military or government personnel, missionaries or aid workers, people with this background generally refer to themselves as third-culture kids. A formal theory of third-culture individuals has yet to emerge, but researchers have recently begun testing assertions made in popular and professional literature about third-culture individuals’ intercultural competence, enhanced adaptability, social sensitivity, open-mindedness, and cultural marginality. This research has produced evidence that their unique intercultural adaptation makes them especially well-equipped to thrive in contexts that require intercultural communication, adaptation, language acquisition, mediation, diplomacy, boundary-spanning, and management of diversity.

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