Across Borders and Cultures: Examining Sense of Belonging and Empathetic Attitudes in Adult Third Culture Kids

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Lavita Nadkarni

Second Advisor

Carrie Landin

Third Advisor

Sally McGregor


Adult third culture kids (ATCKs), Empathy, Belonging, COVID-19 pandemic, Therapy


Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs), with complex cultural identities shaped by a childhood traversing the globe, faced unprecedented challenges with the onset of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. This paper examines the intersection of empathy and belonging among ATCKs post-pandemic. The study uses qualitative research methods to explore their sense of belonging and empathetic attitudes amid transcultural experiences, investigating the pandemic's impact on their connections with surrounding cultures and networks. Common themes emerged in the 'Sense of Belonging' category, such as 'Collective,' 'Fitting In,' 'Memories of Other Countries,' 'Open Dialogue,' 'Perpetual Foreigner,' 'Reclaiming Culture,' and 'Relationship with Other TCKs/ATCKs.' In the 'Empathetic Attitudes' category, themes included 'Assimilation,' 'Flexibility and Adaptability,' 'Engaging in Homogenous Practices,' 'Mislabeled and Misunderstood,' 'Perspective Taking,' and 'Reconciling Cultural Differences.' The 'COVID-19' category revealed significant themes like 'Hate Crimes,' 'Isolation,' 'Longing for Connections,' and 'Negotiating Belongingness.' Lastly, discussions exploring the 'Therapy Needs' category were centered on 'Intake Procedures' and 'Layers of Identity Composition.' These findings underscore ATCKs' resilience in navigating post-COVID-19 realities and highlight ongoing challenges in reconciling their identities and fostering belonging in a changing global landscape. The study concludes with implications for psychological interventions aimed at promoting the well-being of ATCKs post-COVID-19.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.

Rights Holder

Sushmita Oruganti


Received from author

File Format



English (eng)


61 pgs

File Size

524 KB

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