Academic journal article Demographic Research

Partnership Formation and Dissolution among Immigrants in the Spanish Context

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Partnership Formation and Dissolution among Immigrants in the Spanish Context

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

Research on family dynamics among immigrant populations in Europe has focused mainly on Western European countries, due to the large foreign-born populations that arrived in the post-war period in those countries. However, since the mid-1990s there have been large inflows of immigrants to Southern European countries such as Spain. These new and large immigrant groups have affected demographic change and family dynamics in the receiving societies. Spain and other Southern European countries are latecomers to the transformation of family dynamics experienced in Europe since the mid-20th century. The diversification of partnership forms emerged later and progressed much slower in Southern Europe than, for example, in Scandinavia or Western European countries. On the one hand, this could possibly lead to a smaller gap in partnership patterns between immigrants and natives in Spain than in other European countries. On the other hand, given that the foreign-born population in Spain comes from a variety of countries of origin, some of which have more diversified union patterns, we may see that it is the native population that lags behind immigrants with regard to non-traditional partnership trajectories, instead of the classic one-sided assimilation process where immigrants adapt to the native behavior over time.

Research on family and union trajectories among immigrants has concentrated on childbearing behavior (Coleman 1994; Coleman and Dubuc 2010) and intermarriage patterns (Kalmijn 1998; Safi 2010), while often ignoring other aspects of partnership and family dynamics (Kulu and González-Ferrer 2014). The main goal of this study is to identify similarities and differences in patterns of partnership formation and dissolution between immigrant and native women in Spain, making this paper the first of its kind. The lack of in-depth research on immigrants' partnership trajectories in Spain is mainly due to the lack of suitable data sources. Before the rapid increase of migration to Spain in the mid-1990s the foreign population in Spain was small and, accordingly, these research topics did not receive much attention.

Often the comparison of the family dynamics of immigrants and natives tries to capture the degree of integration and adaptation of certain migrant groups to the cultural and social norms of the host society (Dribe and Lundh 2008; Song 2009). The timing of union formation and the choice of partnership type have received hardly any attention in this context. Furthermore, most existing papers concentrate on the descendants of immigrants, the 'second generation' (Huschek, Liefbroer, and de Valk 2010; Wiik and Holland 2015). Among the studies that do investigate the partnership patterns of firstgeneration immigrants, many focus on a single partnership transition, such as entry into first marriage or divorce (Andersson and Scott 2010; Feng et al. 2012). By contrast, this study analyzes a variety of union formation and dissolution transitions among immigrants and natives in Spain, which allows a more complete understanding of the union dynamics in both population subgroups. Furthermore, this study distinguishes between immigrants from several regions of origin in order to take the different cultural and background characteristics of the immigrant groups into account. Thus this study will help to fill some of the gaps in the literature on partnership dynamics among immigrants and natives in Spain.

In section 2 we briefly review different theoretical frameworks and previous research on immigrants' family formation processes. This is followed by section 3, which depicts union formation and dissolution processes over the last decades in Spain. In section 4 we describe the context and profile of international migration to Spain, provide a detailed account of the heterogeneity - by age, sex, origin, and marital status - present in the immigrant population living in Spain, and formulate our expectations. …

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