Grandma in a sun hat
When do you become a grown-up? Photo via Unsplash.

At what point do you stop calling yourself TCK (Third Culture Kid) and start going by ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kid) instead?

It suddenly dawned on me the other day that I should probably be using the second acronym rather than the first. Yet, since it took me so long to find a term that I felt comfortable using to define myself, I’ve been reluctant to adopt anything else. However, this question got me thinking and beckoned a second ‘when do we really become a grown-up?’.

What makes an adult?

I’m pretty sure every country differentiates between children and adults. But each nation establishes a specific age or certain requirements in order to be considered a grown-up by the rest of society. From what I’ve read, age of majority seems to be established anywhere between 14 and 21, with 18 being a frequent age at which young people are legally considered to have entered adulthood.

Other factors such as religion, marriage or puberty can also be taken into consideration to determine if a person has reached adulthood or not in the eyes of their community. Likewise, there are minimum ages for certain activities such as drinking, driving or voting. These sometimes coincide with age of majority, but not necessarily.

Then, of course, you have the fact that people don’t always act their age. You can have a very mature 15-year-old or a very immature 30-year-old. Which of the two would you consider more ‘grown-up’?

The rise of the ‘kidult’.

My perception had been that the kidult phenomenon was on the rise. Fuelled by the 2008 economic crisis, many young people were taking longer to leave home as opposed to a couple of decades ago. Lower salaries, higher housing prices and difficulties in finding a ‘good’ job, drove many students to move back in with their parents to reduce costs after uni.

Then I read this interesting review which, though a few years old now, argues that this perception has more to do with our historical forgetfulness than the reality of events. Nevertheless, the fact that we have this word at all, must be indicative of a certain tendency, at least. Whether it’s always been this way or not is perhaps a topic for another day.

Kidults are adults who continue to depend on their parents for housing and economic support. These childlike individuals refuse to take on the responsibility their age requires of them and they dump those obligations on the previous generations who end up taking on the extra burden. An example of this is mentioned in this other article, also from several years ago, where a 41-year-old Italian was being threatened with legal action by his parent to get him to leave home.

As far as I’m concerned each stage of life has its advantages. Some people seem to spend all their life wishing they were a different age than they currently happen to be. Kids look forward to the day they’ll be grown up, adults wistfully remember the days of their youth, students look forward to the moment they’ll be able to work, workers wish they had the long summer holidays from their student days back… I think the secret is found in enjoying each unique stage of life and all the advantages that come with it.

Over the years I have come to learn one thing, there is always more to learn. It doesn’t matter how grown up you thought you were at a certain age, looking back, you always realise how much has changed since then and how little you really knew at that time. I’m pretty sure this will be true until the day I die.

So, TCK? ATCK? I’m not really sure it matters. Whether you call yourself ATCK once you leave home, when you become economically independent, when you marry, when you have kids or when you get your own home, the essence of both acronyms is the same: we grew up among worlds.

Do you consider yourself a TCK? An ATCK? At what stage did you change from one to the other?

One thought on “TCK or ATCK?

  1. No label can fully encapsulate all of our experiences, whether as a child or as an adult. This I think makes for a richer, less constricted life. I especially like how you phrased it: “we grew up among worlds.” As for “adult” children living with their parents, this is also a matter of perspective. In many Asian cultures, children are expected to stay on in their parental/ancestral homes rather than leave so that the entire family may look after one another. Of course, these grown-up children are expected to shoulder their portion of responsibilities in supporting the household.


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