Family instability in the immigration context. The life course of immigrant single-mothers after a conjugal separation
CES-UA University of Azores Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal
Ecole de service social Université Laval Quebec, Canada
The impact of migration on the familial stability is a topic still under-researched (Hyman et al. 2008, Le Gall 1996). Even if the majority of immigrants live in a familial household both in America and Europe, the study of family migration was developed only recently, since the mid-1980s, particularly in Asian Pacific and American contexts (Kofman 2004, Vatz Laaroussi 2001). Considering migration as a familial project that aims to improve one´s life conditions, this body of research focuses on the familial dynamics of migrants. This paper analyzes the factors that influence the familial instability in immigrant families by examining the life course of certain immigrant single-mothers experiencing a conjugal separation. The redefinition of parental roles, the reorganization of familial and professional projects, the economic vulnerability caused by the loss of socioeconomic status, and the social isolation represent the main factors related to the post-migratory adaptation that determine importantly the familial dynamics where a separation can occur. How separation inserts in various familial dynamics and life paths represents the main question at the core of this presentation. Therefore, a closer look aims at the factors related to the life course in itself: the family history, the episodes preceding the migration and the contexts where multiple or serial transitions occur. As a multi-dimensional transition, immigration implies many changes regarding the professional, residential and social status, as well as the adjustment of family roles. Conjugal separation can be a turning point in the family dynamics of migrants who emphasize immigration as a family project, implying though many risks. The juxtaposition of the two transitions can result in a precarious situation: as studies show, living many transitions during a short period of time can increase the risk of developmental difficulties. In order to highlight the most important findings related to these questions, examples are drawn from a postdoctoral research (2006-2008) based on 10 biographic interviews with immigrant single-mothers of various ethnic origins, established in Quebec city (Canada), for more than 3 years. This analytical model can stand as a comparative example for other similar researches conducted in a European context.