Department or Program


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Angela Bahns


Third Culture Kids (TCK), individuals that experience high mobility and multicultural exposure in their developmental years, tend to skip small talk and begin disclosing emotional or personal information in the early stages of the relationship. The phrase accelerated self-disclosure will be used here on to refer to such disclosures of moderate to moderately high intimacy that occur early on in a relationship. This thesis project explored which aspects of the TCK experience affect friendship-related behavior. In Study 1, TCKs (N=50) and non-TCKs (N=47) were compared on relational mobility, residential mobility, open-mindedness, cultural empathy and their approaches to friendships. TCKs were more likely to engage in accelerated self-disclosures, and reported more relationship interest for a potential friend who brought up an intimate topic in an imagined early interaction than non-TCKs. The two samples showed significantly different perceptions of intimacy for high and low intimacy topics. TCKs were more open-minded, extraverted, had higher cultural empathy and perceived less relational mobility than non-TCKs. In Study 2, non-TCKs (N= 256) were primed for open-mindedness and rated their relationship interest for a discloser in a video task as well as in an imagined scenario. Participants exposed to an accelerated self-disclosure in a prior task were more welcoming of accelerated self-disclosures in the imagined scenario task than participants who were exposed to small talk. Findings suggest that open-mindedness, a sense of urgency about establishing relationships and a shared understanding of what early interactions entail are instrumental in the development of accelerated self-disclosures in TCKs.