Abstract: Global Nomad Identity

“Global Nomad Identity: Hypothesizing a Developmental Model”
by Barbara F. Schaetti 
Doctor of Philosophy in Intercultural Communication 
November 2000

Raised internationally because of a parent’s occupation, global nomads are influenced during their formative years by multiple cultural traditions. Their identity development experiences are necessarily rendered complex.

This qualitative study asks “What is the process by which global nomads transact the developmental tasks necessary for an achieved identity?” It is intellectually contextualized first within the racial, biracial, and multicultural identity literatures generally, and then within the global nomad identity literature more specifically.

The study explores the identity development experiences of sixteen adult global nomads: nationals or bi-nationals of seven countries, fifteen racially white and one biracial, raised world wide from infancy through adolescence, and representing the broad spectrum of sponsoring organizations. In-depth interviews were conducted in which participants discussed their identity heritage, their identity development, their identity resolution and expression, and their identity belonging.

A model was hypothesized of global nomad identity development across the life-span which suggests that global nomad identity development is a search for identity congruence. It typically is initiated by an oppressively marginalizing event but may instead begin with an event which highlights the values and fabric of the expatriate life. In either case, often interwoven with experiences of repatriation, nationality, and plurality, the effect is to make individuals conscious of the fact that they are in some way different from others. The subsequent search for congruence is one directed more by instinct than by conscious intention until such times as individuals are introduced to the term “global nomad” or “third culture kid.” This serves for many as a pivotal identity development moment; they now have a map with which they may become intentional in their search for identity congruence.

The model is multi-directional and posits a broad range of identity outcomes. Participants in this study demonstrated an increasing sophistication across the life-span in their transactions of difference, repatriation, nationality, and plurality. Not all asserted high salience to the terms “global nomad” or “third culture kid.” Results suggest that internally localized spiritual values correlate with self-contingent experiences of belonging and that each of these supports the negotiation of an integrated, higher-order, multicultural self-concept.

Barbara Schaetti’s dissertation, “Global Nomad Identity: Hypothesizing a Developmental Model,” (2000), is available through Dissertation Abstracts. It can be ordered online through Bell and Howell (formerly UMI). The catalog number is 9992721. Volume: 6110; Issue: A.