“You don’t really have friends, you have acquaintances:” Exploring the experience of friendship for ‘Adult Third Culture Kids’ from the UK. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

PhD Thesis


McClellan, Felicity Jane (Jay) 2011. “You don’t really have friends, you have acquaintances:” Exploring the experience of friendship for ‘Adult Third Culture Kids’ from the UK. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsMcClellan, Felicity Jane (Jay)
TypePhD Thesis
Abstract

As globalisation increases more families than ever are relocating from their passport countries for
periods of temporary employment overseas. This has resulted in an increasing number of young
people being raised in overseas locations. These young people are collectively referred to as Third
Culture Kids (TCK) their adult counterparts are Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs). They are
different from immigrants, as they do not expect to permanently settle in the location in which they
have been residing. This lack of permanence has been criticised for engendering a variety of
difficulties that TCKs and ATCKs must face. Of interest to this study was the observation that
TCKs experience various difficulties with their friend relationships. This is problematic, as
friendship has been found to be crucial to indicators of well-being such as happiness, and longevity.
An interpretative phenomenological analysis of Adult Third Culture Kids’ experiences of friendship
was undertaken. Eight ATCKs from the UK, three men and five women, were interviewed using a
semi-structured interview schedule. Analysis revealed that participants’ experience of friendship
was situated in various themes. These included: the challenges of friendship; multiple identities in
response to friendship; the psychological impact of friendship; and valued characteristics of
friendship. Each theme was comprised of various subordinate themes that facilitated further
understanding of the super ordinate theme.
The findings were discussed with reference to the TCK literature and a wider review of
psychological theory. Particular attention was given to the discussion of attachment theory, as this
underscored several of the findings related to the Superordinate theme, the psychological impact of
friendship; particularly the finding that ATCKs experience anxiety in friendships, report negative
views of self and others and reveal a lack of strong attachments to their peers. In addition identity
theory was also utilised in the discussion as the findings indicated a high salience of identity issues
for ATCKs in relation to their friendship experiences, reflected in the theme, multiple identities in
response to friendship.
The implications for clinical practice were considered. These included suggestions for working with
ATCKs who present with difficulties in their friend relationships, by exploring their history of loss,
their anxiety about friend relationships and the meaning attached to becoming involved in peer
relationships. Suggestions were also made for therapists to explore the ATCKs sense of self in
terms of negative thoughts about self and other, including being ‘English/British’ or forming
relationships with ‘English/British’ peers.

KeywordsInterpretative Phenomenological Analysis; Third Culture Kids; globalisation
Year2011
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.15123/PUB.1865
Publication dates
PrintDec 2011
Publication process dates
Deposited04 Apr 2013
Publisher's version
License
CC BY-ND
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https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/86024

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