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Publication - Book Chapter

Expatriate children: Lessons learned from missionary kids (MKs)



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This chapter looks at missionary children in history, reviews the development of the Third Culture Kids/Missionary Kids (TCK/MKs) concept, and provides an overview of research on MKs from major sending countries. Since the development of the term TCK in the 1960’s, research focused on English-speaking MKs has been extensive and ongoing. Less is known about MKs from other language groups even as their numbers increase. While much more research is needed to understand the similarities and differences in MKs from countries outside the English-speaking world, this chapter reviews the MK-related research done in the three major missionary sending countries – USA, Brazil, and South Korea—and offers suggestions for the wider expatriate community. Research findings show that healthy MKs are raised within a close, caring family where there is resilience and affection, a strong marital relationship, good communication skills, an ability to deal with stress, and a spiritual base. In addition, MK well-being is enhanced by an extensive support system that is multi-dimensional with involvement of a wider community that includes the family, school, mission agency, and church providing the role models and relationships essential for developing a healthy TCK adult identity. Age-appropriate pre-field training, on-field support, and reentry seminars specifically for MKs are offered by numerous organizations. A similar development of care structures for expatriate families and children in all types of organizations is needed. Very little research has, however, been devoted specifically to the impact of expatriation upon the children of business expatriates. Studies of expatriation in the international management domain would be enhanced by linking them with the literature relating to religious-based expatriation. A few research questions to help advance the conceptual and empirical development of such a research agenda are offered.

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