Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Sharing Space-Gendered Patterns of Extended Household Living among Young Turkish Marriage Migrants in Denmark

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Sharing Space-Gendered Patterns of Extended Household Living among Young Turkish Marriage Migrants in Denmark

Article excerpt


Across the globe, people live most of their lives in households of one kind or another. Three basic household types are the single-person household, with one adult living alone; the nuclear household, made up of a couple with or without dependent children; and the extended household, where larger constellations of family members live together. In the industrialized western world today, single-person and nuclear households predominate, while extended households are more common among certain immigrant and groups (Sarkisian et al., 2006). In the United States in particular, this difference has turned immigrant extended household living into an important research topic (e.g., Kamo, 2000; van Hook and Glick, 2007).

In contrast to the American literature, much less attention has focused on extended household living among European immigrants, partly from the assumption that such a household form has been of little importance (Bolt 2002: 270). Questioning the assumption of the negligible importance of this under-researched subject, this article investigates extended household living among one European immigrant group, Turkish1 immigrants in Denmark. The focus is on young couples, where one spouse is a marriage migrant from Turkey and the other spouse is a resident in Denmark, born of Turkish parents. Drawing on survey and register data, as well as on qualitative interviews, the article explores, first, the frequency and composition of extended household living among such female and male marriage migrants, and, second, the different experiences of extended household living according to the gender of the marriage migrant.


One rationale behind living in extended, rather than nuclear, households is that individuals can pool resources and reduce individual living expenses through sharing accommodation costs and other household expenditures (Angel and Tienda, 1982; Guck et al., 1997). Extended household living can therefore be a survival strategy for immigrants, who often have weaker socio-economic positions than the majority population, for reasons such as language problems, lack of usable educational skills, labor market discrimination, or lack of host country social networks. Conditions in the host country may also affect such living arrangements. Some countries, for instance, may limit immigrants' access to social support, thereby increasing immigrant dependence on family support (Kamo, 2000), while in other countries or regions a tight housing market may make extended household living necessary for arriving immigrants with limited financial means (Bolt, 2002). The economic aspect of extended household living may also give immigrants a better ability to retain specific home country living arrangements such as keeping certain female family members out of the labor market.

Life cycle concerns also play a role: extended households may be more common at specific times in the family life cycle, as when young couples live with parents during their family formation or when elderly parents move in with their adult children. Extended family living arrangements often occur only during a phase of adult family life, as they serve to alleviate care needs for the very young or the very old (Blank and Torrecilha, 1998; Pimentel and Liu, 2004). Consequently, the number of individuals who live in extended households at some time during their lives far exceeds the numbers living in such families at any one given time.

The demographic composition of immigrant groups, shaped by their immigration patterns, may also affect the formation of extended households. One concrete example is when a Cuban exodus led to many older Cuban immigrants entering the United States, leading to the formation of three-generational families as the newly arrived older family members joined their grown children who had arrived earlier-an otherwise atypical migration situation (Pérez, 1994). …

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