Third Culture Kids: Social Competence and Sense of Belonging
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The increasingly globalized world yields a growing population of Third Culture Kids (TCKs); youth who are born in one country and move to at least one other country amidst their developmental years. TCKs often live highly mobile lives, relocating frequently due to their parent's careers, and assimilating within communities of other TCKs and their ex-patriot families. With numerous relocations, TCKs are thought to develop high levels of social competence for meeting new people and integrating within diverse cultures. However, frequent relocation also fosters grief for lost relationships, disconnection, and difficulty establishing deep friendships. Social acceptance and relationships are recognized as foundational components of sense of belonging (SOB), an innate, psychological need necessary for optimal human development. Current literature suggests that TCKs develop high levels of social competence that help them become accepted in diverse social contexts, but frequent relocations thwart their ability to establish deep friendships. With little research to date on how TCKs establish SOB, this study analyzed how social competence correlates with SOB in TCKs who attend two international schools in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the moderation effect of low versus high relocation instances on the relationship between social competence and SOB was examined. Sixty-seven students aged 9 to 16 years participated in this study and completed the Social Skills Improvement System Rating scales (SSiS- RD 8-12; SSiS-RS 13-18), General Sense of Belonging Scale (GBS), and transitional questions regarding the number of times relocated. It was hypothesized that social competence would positively correlate with SOB and that a greater number of relocations would negatively affect the relationship. Data collection is ongoing. Preliminary findings will be discussed in light of understanding how TCKs develop SOB in their transitory life.