TCK World proudly presents:
Dr. Ruth Hill Useem -- the sociologist/anthopologist who first coined the term "Third Culture Kid" ("TCK")
Dr. Ruth Hill Useem was born on May 31, 1915 in Hamilton, Ohio. She received her BA in Sociology, Geology and English from Miami University in 1936 and her Ph.D. in Sociology, Anthropology, Social Psychology, and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1947. She married Dr. John Useem in June of 1940; they have three grown TCK sons and seven grandchildren.
Dr. Useem first lived outside the U.S. in 1952-53 while conducting research with John Useem in India on persons who had received a higher education in a Western country (a project sponsored by The Edward W. Hazen Foundation). The Useems returned to India a second time in 1958, again sponsored by The Hazen Foundation, to study overseas Americans in India; they took their boys with them to live abroad on both visits. It was these experiences which led to John and Ruth Useems coining of the term "Third Culture" and, by extrapolation, "Third Culture Kids." Dr. Ruth Hill Useem began publishing on Third Culture Kids in the 1960s. She is widely regarded as the founder of TCK research.
In the years 1952-1985, while supported by the Institute of International Studies in Education and the Center for International Studies and Programs of Michigan State University, Dr. Useem made field observations on expatriate communities, overseas schools, and third culture children in: EAST ASIA (South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong); SOUTHEAST ASIA (Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia); SOUTH ASIA (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan); MIDDLE EAST (Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon); AFRICA (Egypt, Morocco, Canary Islands, South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Senegal, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Togo); EUROPE (Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Austria); UNITED STATES (Washington, D.C., New York, East Lansing, Michigan). In all, Dr. Useem traveled to 76 countries to complete her field research on Third Culture Kids.
With respect to the education of Third Culture Children, Dr. Useem acted as a consultant, keynote speaker, and workshop presenter at schools and regional organizations assisted by the Office of Overseas Schools of the U.S. Department of State. She has acted as a consultant to, and given special presentations to, personnel and students of U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools as well as the boards and administrators of Protestant- and Catholic-related overseas schools, and schools provided by multinational corporations for the children of their employees. Dr. Useem worked directly with students, parents and teachers at these schools.
Between the years 1952 and 1985, Dr. Useem also taught at the university level in the U.S. The central emphasis in her teaching has been combining sociological, cultural anthropological and social psychological perspectives for understanding individuals in their social/cultural/economic settings, particularly when those settings are undergoing rapid change and conflict. She taught courses on the education of TCKs both in the U.S. and abroad. During her tenure as an educator, Dr. Useem directed or made substantive contributions to more than thirty doctoral dissertations. Many of these consisted of ground-breaking work in the field of TCK research.
Dr. Useem became Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Education at Michigan State University in 1985, and continued her work on Third Culture Kids. In particular, she has studied the effects of how a Third Culture childhood impacts the individual once they reach adulthood. Her most recent large project (begun in 1991) has been conducted with her husband and two additional researchers, Dr. Ann Baker Cottrell of San Diego State University and Dr. Kathleen Ann Finn Jordan, a guidance counselor of overseas students. This project includes the analysis of nearly 700 twenty-four page self-administered questionnaires. Respondents ranged in age from 25 to 90 and included men and women from each of the predominant sponsors and a majority of the countries on the planet (Read the five articles as they were first published in NewsLinks: The Newspaper of International Schools Services.).
Dr. Useem died in September 10th 2003.
The following links will provide additional information on the Student Dissertations she has directed or to which she has made substantive contributions, the Empirical Research she has conducted, the Professional Societies to which she has belonged, the Consulting and Professional Services she has provided, and the Honors she has received.
Initially published in NewsLinks -- the newspaper of International Schools Services these reports were derived from a study of Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs) undertaken by three sociologists / anthropologists: Dr. Ann Baker Cottrell of San Diego State University and Drs. John Useem and Ruth Hill Useem, emeritus professors of Michigan State University; and by a counseling/guidance expert, Dr. Kathleen A. Finn Jordan, currently a Consulting Educational Counselor in Washington, D.C. They are provided here by permission of the authors. They have since been combined and published in Strangers at Home: Essays on the Effects of Living Overseas and Coming "Home" to a Strange Land, by Carolyn D. Smith, Aletheia Publications.
Article 1: Third Culture Kids: Focus of Major Study -- TCK "mother" pens history of field
Article 2: TCKs Four Times More Likely to Earn Bachelors Degrees
Article 3: TCKs Experience Prolonged Adolescence
Article 4: ATCKs have problems relating to their own ethnic groups
Article 5: ATCKs maintain global dimensions throughout their lives
Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are the children of expatriates who live in a foreign country for their work. Such 'work' may include occupations in the military, diplomatic corps, mission field, non-profit sector, education, and corporate business.
TCKs inhabit three distinct, yet interrelated, cultures: the first being a child's country of origin and/or parental culture of which they hold a passport but may or may not have been born in; the second being the host country in which a child is currently living; and the third culture belonging to the community within the second culture that a TCK most identifies with in terms of a shared lifestyle and meaning.
International schools often represent the "third" culture to TCKs because these campuses share several common characteristics that TCKs come to understand as "normal": teachers, staff and students are multi-culturally diverse, and there is a high turnover of the student body. Additionally, while the content of children's stories in the international school community may differ, their experience is nonetheless universally understood much like a familiar script in which they, and their parents, often find comfort, security, and a sense of shared identity.
Being a TCK is both a privilege and a burden. For parents, there is probably no other life decision so wrought with uncertainty and apprehension as the one to relocate their children abroad, whether temporarily for work or as emigrants. For children repatriating to their home or passport country to attend university, the experience can be one of cultural imbalance, frustration, and isolation in the realization that their "normal" highly mobile, cross-cultural life is very different from that of their college peers.
And yet, TCKs are often coined "citizens of the future" because they acquire cross-cultural skills and experience diverse opportunities at a young age, with many viewed as ideal leaders of tomorrow's globalised society. Adult TCKs (ATCKs) in particular are thought to be more cross-culturally competent and open to experience because of their early childhood experiences.