Lithuanian transnational families: how to remain a family?
Demographic Research Center Institute for Social Research Vilnius, Lithuania
Lithuania´s political integration into the European Union catalyzed the process of transnational migration and brought to life a completely new form of family life to our society. Families with their members living in host countries both in Europe and outside became a new social reality.
The aim of this presentation is to discuss the effects of transnational migration on the intergenerational family relations between parents and non-adult children in Lithuanian society. I focus my analysis on different aspects of transnational communication considering the gender and class as two social forces that shape the process of transnational communication. I define transnational communication as a process in which family members exchange emotions, ideas, material goods and money and throughout this process maintain family relations and intimacy.
The research results reveal that transnational communication proceeds through various practices including an active use of modern technologies and visits home. Considering the intergenerational relations it is important to stress that not the duration but the regularity and frequency of home visits by migrant family member helps to minimize the emotional strain and other negative behavioral outcomes for the children. The next important finding proves that there is an intergenerational gap in attributing the symbolical value to the different aspects of transnational communication. For parents´ generation money and material goods are understood as a main tool for the sustaining of intimacy in the family while for children and especially pre-school-age children this has the least value. The different symbolical value that respectively is shared among parents´ and children´s generations and is not articulated by parents consolidates the challenges for the development of intimate intergenerational relationships in transnational families.
The presentation is based on the study commissioned by the International Organization of Migration (Vilnius Office) and implemented under my supervision in 2008. The data gathered applying the qualitative and quantitative research methodology, i. e. national survey and in-depth interviews with transnational family members in Lithuania and three host EU countries.