Comparisons of cultural adaptability and sense of belonging in Third Culture Kids (TCKS) and non-TCKS

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This study seeks to compare Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and non-TCKs who had studied in Asia on their cultural adaptability and sense of belonging. It was hypothesized that TCKs would be more culturally adaptable and have a lower sense of belonging compared to non-TCKs. Cultural adaptation and sense of belonging were also hypothesized to be inversely correlated. Cultural adaptation was measured using the Cultural Intelligence Scale (CQS) and sense of belonging was measured via the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM). Participants were categorized into TCKs and non-TCKs based on their responses on the Brief Demographics Form. There were 246 participants in this study with 124 TCKs and 122 non-TCKs. Results obtained provided evidence that TCKs are more culturally adaptable than non-TCKs, specifically on knowledge, awareness, motivation, and behavior when interacting with other cultures. TCKs had a lower emotional attachment to their ethnic identity than non-TCKs, though they did not differ in their knowledge and understanding of their ethnic group. For non-TCKs, there were small positive correlations between cultural adaptation and sense of belonging, between cultural adaptation and ethnic identity search’, and between the cognitive aspect of cultural intelligence and sense of belonging. For TCKs, there was an inverse correlation between the motivational aspect of cultural adaptation with sense of belonging and affirmation, belonging, and commitment. The metacognitive aspect of cultural adaptation was also positively related to ethnic identity search for all participants. TCKs and non-TCKs were found to relate to cultural adaptation and their sense of belonging differently. As the number of TCKs will increase with globalization, counselors can consider helping TCKs reinforce their sense of belonging and encourage TCKs to use their more culturally adaptable selves to their advantage and gain a sense of purpose from their multi-ethnicity by working with diverse population.