Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Post Migration Changes in Iranian Immigrants' Couple Relationships in Canada

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Post Migration Changes in Iranian Immigrants' Couple Relationships in Canada

Article excerpt


International immigration is a major life episode that forces a redefinition of identity and self. Vattimo (1992) and Melucci (1989) suggest that migration challenges one's veiy sense of reality, as what was once the reality of life and relationships becomes but one reality among several. Roles that were once so familiar that their components were assumed to be part of the natural order may be challenged by the accommodations that must be made in establishing oneself in a new countiy. The old, familiar roles and ways of being a man, woman, husband, wife or parent are no longer the only ways and may not even be possible or desirable any longer. The degree of challenge in adapting to a new countiy varies across ethno-racial and religious groups and is based on particular migratory experiences (Bern, 1 990) . High rates of depression, anxiety and family conflict documented in some immigrant groups have been credited to the stresses of adaptation, loss of cultural referents, un- or underemployment of male immigrants and the role strain and associated threats that these pose to identity, self esteem, and psychological well-being (Darvishpour, 2002; Farver, Narang, and Bhadha, 2002; Gill and Matthews, 1995; Hojat, Shapourian, Foroughi, Nayerahmadi, Farzane, Shafieyan, et al., 2000; Hum and Simpson, 2004; Moghissi and Goodman, 1999; Zhou and Xiong, 2005).

At the core of the impact on marital relationships are the challenges to gender and marital roles and identity posed by migration from societies that hold to traditional, often religiouslybased, values and beliefs about gender and patriarchal family systems to societies where gender roles, identities and family systems are more post-modern, secular, egalitarian and fluid (Giddens, 1992; Bauman2000; 2003). Not only are immigrants surrounded by examples of lifestyles and families that challenge their beliefs about right and wrong, good and bad, proper and improper, but the circumstances in which they find themselves may force them to make adjustments in their own family and couple relationships that would be unacceptable in their home country.

This paper uses in-depth interviews with 15 male and 15 female immigrants to Canada from Iran who are in marriage or marriage-like relationships to examine the challenges to gendered marital roles and relationships experienced with immigration to Canada and how this sample of immigrants responded to these challenges.


Gender, Marriage and Family in Iran

Immigrants from Iran come from a countiy of 70 million, whose constitution is based on Shari'a or Islamic Law. As noted in section 1 , article 4 of the Constitution (Constitution of the Republic of Iran, 2008), government policies and actions are guided by Islamic principles. Muslims comprise 98% of the population, with the remaining 2% comprised of Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and B alia' i (CIA World Fact Book Iran, 2010). Gender norms and codes of behavior are grounded in a patriarchal power structure, gender segregation, and beliefs about the inherent difference of males and females that predate the arrival of Islam in Iran, but are now reinforced by Islamic beliefs and teachings (Shirpak, Ardebili, Mohammad, MatickaTyndale, Chinichian, Ramenzankhani, et al., 2007). Legal restrictions on public cross-gender communication, socializing and dress and the criminalization of nonmarital sexual relations are external mechanisms of control enforced primarily against women. They are grounded in beliefs about the ease with which sexual desire is aroused and the need to protect men against such arousal and women against the sexual overtures of men (Keddie, 1 99 1 ; Nashat and Tucker, 1999; Validi, 2004). Segregation of the sexes begins with entiy into primary school and continues, in some form, through all levels of schooling. Beaches, swimming pools, and schools have separate areas (or times) designated for men and women. Malefemale interaction is legally prohibited in public except with maharem (people of the opposite sex with whom marriage is religiously and legally forbidden such as parents and siblings) and discouraged, even in private. …

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