The first thing that caught my eye was one study that noted the negative outcomes for military children. One was that they lacked the ability to feel included in typical US life. In fact, the study showed that 32% of military children say they feel more like spectators and 48% do not feel like they can identify with any one group. Furthermore, it said that military brats have a hard time forming lasting relationships or emotional attachments.
OK. Yes, this is all kind of a downer. But man, it is true… at least, I know I’ve identified with all of those things at one point or another. I was just having a conversation the other day where my friend asked if I had to pick a group of friends, who would I most identify with? Who have I felt I have the most in common with? At some point, I have held things in common with all of my groups of friends, but then a move comes along and suddenly we don’t have as much in common anymore.
Spatial proximity is a huge common ground, especially as a kid. You share the same experiences from class or extra-curriculars, but when you move away those experiences are gone and it becomes difficult to identify with the same group of friends. So you move on to a new one, temporarily moulding yourself to fit into a new culture for a short time, until it comes time again to unattach and create a new mould.
They say that you are a reflection of your friends, and I believe it. The problem for military brats is you begin to reflect so many different kinds of friends, when you look in the mirror it gets hard to see your own face.
This quote from Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds is a great explanation of what I am talking about:
“The third culture kid (TCK) frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership of any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the scene of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background” (Pollock &Van R., 2008).
So I guess if I had to pick a group, it would be the other military brats I’ve been friends with because we have a similar background. But even then, our individual experiences are also very different. Some brats have lived overseas, some have lost a parent, some have left home, some have joined the military themselves. We are all very different but we identify with one thing: that we don’t identify.
The next article was about how military children are depicted in cinema. It said that most often cinema will briefly touch on the military family and even then, mainly focus on the spouse. Moreover, the children are often portrayed as having a very spoiled upbringing. The sociologists behind this particular study (Georg Simel and Robert Park) say that military brats are a numerical minority, with no physiological differences to set them apart and so it becomes more difficult to understand their social situation. They use the terms “the stranger” or the “marginal man”
“(The military brat) struggles to present a stable self-concept where he or she is an outsider in civilian society that is grounded in a collective sense of geographic space and historical place” (Ender, 2005).
Sorry, I know I said I wouldn’t give you a journal review, but these studies really interested me because I had no idea that such research had even been done. Before reading the second article, I never would have described myself as a minority… and I probably still wouldn’t necessarily put it that way, but I guess in a way we really are. We are a group that is not well researched, but yet have so many interesting facets to be discovered and understood. Is it healthy to grow up nomadic? Do the benefits outweigh the costs?
On a good day, I would say yes. Although there are times when I have a hard time remembering why it was a good thing. Especially times when I am trying to think of who my closest friends are and whether or not they would consider me their closest friend too, when they’ve known people since kindergarten. Or when I am asked where I call home and I have literally no idea what to say.
In the end, I think the most important thing I did in building my own identity was by finding things I enjoyed; dance, running, and creating videos. As I have gotten older my interests have shifted, but I am glad that growing up I at least always had those things to keep my own face smiling back at me in the mirror.
Here are some interesting reads for you:
Book- Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds
Journal Article- Military Brats: Film Representations of Children in Military Families
Journal Article- Adult TCK: Does their Concept of Home Have an Impact on their Career Paths?