Young people with immigrant background, family life and social positioning
Sociology The Finnish Youth Research Network / University of Helsinki Helsinki, Finland
My paper discusses young people with immigrant background, the support and recources their immediate social network, especially family, is able to provide them and the ways these intertwine with their life course outside their homes (leisure time, social networks, education) and the social positions they see available for themselves.
Young immigrants' family networks question on multiple levels both the stereotypical images of immigrant families and the very notion of family as traditionally understood in Western societies. Their family networks extend over national borders, as they maintain social ties with family members and other relatives living in their (parents') countries of origin and elsewhere, providing them with an important source of material and emotional support. Contrary to what is sometimes thought, young people with immigrant background do not seem to be willing in great extent to turn their backs to their (parents') culture of origin, but instead value it highly and even use it as a means to distinct themselves positively from their Finnish peers. Especially the close family ties and respect for parents are brought as positive elements.
Social positions and identities are also constructed through different social, (sub)cultural and moral divisions and differences. Access to different resources and capitals, the definitions reserved for young people and their families by the wider society and their self-identifications and disidentifications all contribute to the ways the young people see their position and its possibilities.
Examining the transnational ties and identities on one hand and local environment that constrains, enables and encourages certain positions and identifications on the other hand helps to question the traditional way of seeing membership in a nation state a central foundation of identities. Resources for identity construction are multiple and sometimes even conflicting, and they can be drawn from local, global or transnational levels.
My paper draws from preliminary thoughts of my doctoral thesis project. Its data consists of interviews with young people with immigrant background and their parents.