Some initial results from my survey of ATCKs – and how you can help!

I’ve written before about my new project for twenty-something TCKs, and the survey I launched as a starting place for looking into issues that affect them.

I had to put my research on hold for a few months due to illness BUT the good news is that means I’m still looking for more ATCKs to complete my initial survey! If you lived overseas as a child and are now an adult (especially if you are between 30-50 years old!) I would LOVE to have your input. Please do share this around with anyone you know who might be interested.

Click here to go to the survey

300 ATCKs have completed the survey, and over 100 have indicated a willingness to be interviewed. So far there are 55 different passport countries and 134 countries of residence represented. All of this is really exciting!!

Are all your countries represented? I’ve included the full list of countries below – take a look and see!

I’m also going to share with you a few inital results from the survey – the story so far. The survey is still open and so these results may shift, especially if the demographics of participants evens out. Currently there are more females than males, more under 30s than over 30s, and more missionary kids than other demographics. So, with the understanding that these are very provisional results, here are a few statistics from the survey so far:

  • 46% lived 10 or more years of childhood outside their legal culture/s.
  • 20% lived in four or more countries before age 18.
  • 32% currently hold legal status (passport or permanent residency) in two or more countries.
  • 43% have given up legal status (passport or permanent residency) they previously held.

A lot of this survey asks which issues are/were a struggle, to help me understand what issues and information will be most helpful to discuss in a book for twenty-somethings. Here are a few of the issues that many ATCKs are responding to:

  • 80% have struggled with maintaining friendships long-distance.
  • 73% have struggled to find a sense of belonging in their passport countries.
  • 72% have struggled with putting down roots.
  • 70% have struggled with a fear of connecting and then leaving/being left.
  • 69% have struggled with making a place “home”.

I also asked questions about mental health and support services. This is something I get a LOT of questions about, and I want to make sure the new book has solid and helpful information. This is a simple survey based on self-reporting, but the statistics on how mental health issues have affected ATCKs are still worth paying attention to:

  • 78% report being affected by unresolved grief.
  • 76% report being affected by anxiety.
  • 70% report being affected by depression.
  • 26% report being affected by self-harm.
  • 14% report being affected by substance abuse.
  • 36% have never received any type of mental health support.

Finally, here is the long list of countries represented by the 300 people who have completed the survey so far! Are all yours here?

55 Legal Cultures
These are the countries survey participants have/had a passport from or legal permanent residency in.
Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Côte D’Ivoire, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Senegal, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.

134 Geographic Cultures
These are the countries survey participants have lived in. 123 of these were childhood homes! (This list includes 10 territories*; I include them as they are geographically/culturally very different to their governing nations.)
Afghanistan, Akrotiri and Dhekelia*, Albania, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba*, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Islands*, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo (Rep), Congo (DRC), Costa Rica, Côte D’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Hong Kong*, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao*, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norfolk Island*, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Pitcairn Islands*, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico*, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, South ‎Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands*, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Update: to learn more information from my research as I continue working, please consider supporting me on Patreon. $2 a month gives you access to extra insights arising through the research process.

Milestones! A celebration and a survey

Yesterday was a day of celebrating round numbers: the Misunderstood facebook page passed 1,000 page likes, and the survey of adult TCKs I’m running passed 100 completed responses! So for today’s blog post I’m going to share about both of those things.

First up – the 1,000 likes.

A bit under a month ago facebook sent me a notification about having passed 900 likes, and would I like to write a post to celebrate? Instead I decided 1,000 was a better number and set up a prize draw to celebrate when it happened. I wrote a post announcing this at the time. Yesterday, when the page got to ONE THOUSAND likes, I used a random number generator to pick a winner from the 25 people who entered. And the lucky winner was….

Helen! Helen just moved from the UK to the US with her family and is looking forward to learning more about the international world she is now raising her children in. She says she can’t believe she won; it was so fun for me to tell her the news! I’ll be posting her signed copy to her this week.

And next – the survey!

Two months ago I announced that I’ve started working toward a second book, this time for twenty-something TCKs – support for the journey from international childhood to independent adulthood. During the time in between I’ve had several conversations helping me clarify what I want to do, but mostly I’ve been working on a survey. I was stalling out on how to start my research, and finally realised what I needed was to do two separate surveys. I’d always planned to do a big and comprehensive survey to provide data for the book, but I realised I first needed some more foundational information to get me started, and give direction to interviews and the structure of writing.

survey-imgI spent the last month or so creating and testing different versions of this survey (thank you to the 30 people who helped me test the drafts!) and last week I posted the final version online.

Most of the survey asks for reactions to different issues that twenty-something TCKs I’ve talked to and interviewed over the past few years have struggled with. The goal is to see which are the most widespread and deeply felt. There are also some optional open-ended questions, to catch what ATCKs feel is missing, and hear their advice for others. I’ve been blown away by some of the thoughtful and insightful comments that have already been left! Most comments reflect items already in my breakdown of themes and issues to covers, and have served as confirmation and additional layers on those. Some have raised additional issues I can see should also be included.

A few people have expressed concern that the list seems quite negative. I thought this was worth addressing publicly. The goal of the book is not to say that being a TCK is bad and ruins your life. I absolutely do not believe that! But I do recognise that life is rarely all good or all bad. There are huge positives to international life, but there are also difficulties. A big focus of my work in general is recognising those difficulties and providing support for working through them effectively so that TCKs can more freely enjoy the benefits of their experiences. I strongly believe that ignoring or covering over negative feelings/experiences is a mistake with long-term repercussions. A large focus of the book I’m working toward will be acknowledging that certain struggles exist, talking about how to face them and overcome them, and assuring ATCKs that they can (and will!) find a way through, and create lives they enjoy.

As I said, I have now received over 100 completed responses, and more than half of those have indicated a willingness to be interviewed individually for the book. I’m so encouraged by this level of support! My goal is to get responses from 300 ATCKs in their 20s, 200 in their 30s, and 100 in their 40s. I’m well on the way to that, although so far I have fewer responses from 30-somethings and from men generally, and I have a higher number of responses from the mission world. Hopefully as word continues to spread those demographics will even out a bit more.

And, because I’m a bit of a nerd, I’m going to finish this post with a little stastitics fun. Looking at the demographics of the completed responses, I can see that:

  • 27% currently have citizenship/PR in more than one country
  • 13% lived in 4 or more countries before age 18
  • 47% spent 10 or more years overseas before age 18
  • Combined, they have lived in 53 different countries before age 18
  • Combined, they span 26 passport countries, from all 6 passport-issuing continents:
    • Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, PR China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Rep of Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tanzania, UK, USA.

Will be fun to see how this changes and expands as more data comes in!

Update: click here for more recent (though still preliminary) results from the survey!

If you know anyone who spent at least a year living overseas before age 18, please pass this along to them! I would love to reach a wide range of people, from different parts of the world, with different international experiences.

You can take the survey (or just read the introduction to it) by clicking here.

Or scan this QR code to go straight there: