Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Care Issues in the Transnational Families. A Polish Research Review

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Care Issues in the Transnational Families. A Polish Research Review

Article excerpt


The intensified international mobility of Poles after 20041 significantly impacts the changes of social relations, as well as the functioning and continuity of families. Migrations cause a whole array of challenges which were not visible until recently.2 They also highlight numerous social changes, tensions and conflicts connected with, among other issues, the phenomenon of transnational families, the deconstruction and reconstruction of families, family roles, organization of childcare (transnational parenting) and care for the elderly (transnational caregiving), as well as emotional and educational problems among migrant (and returning) children. The transformations occurring in Poland are embedded in the diagnosis of postmodern families which Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim proposed to call "global families" (2013).

As Polish culture values family networks, and believes that a strong family is crucial for the stability of both the individual and the community, the recent migration trend of young Polish men and women is challenging the previously held notions of what components must be present to create a safe and thriving environment for all generations of the modern Polish family unit. As social expectations change, a family's approach and needs will change as well, creating adjustments to previous norms with regard to child and eldercare. Migrations, temporary separations, and re-intregration issues are inherent in a family with a constantly shifting shape, and worthy of exploration through sociological, historical, and even psychological lenses. The main goal of our research is to focus on the multi-dimensional consequences of migration pertaining to changes in kinship relationships, as well as the organization of child and elderly care.

Social Relationships and Migration. Transnational Families

A clear concept of social relationships is crucial for the analyses presented here, as it constitutes a basis and an overarching frame for more specific and detailed investigations. Its sociological use encompasses all types of connections found among people, which might be equated to an idea of individual's identification with a social group, and is often highlighted as an opposition to the notion of individualization (Marody, Giza-Poleszczuk 2004: 99). It goes beyond the simplicity of linking individuals to a type of a superior entity but rather means the transformative potential that can be seen neither as a straightforward summation of traits found among individuals, nor equated with characteristics of the emerging structures. These definitions are also applicable to the core nature of family ties, especially their communitarian and interactive character. Seen as a natural community, a model of an altruistic "company" and the first training grounds for reaching a decision according to the will of an entire community, a family has constituted a key entity for studying and understanding both the individual success and means for creating public good (Marody, Giza-Poleszczuk 2004: 186).

With regard to migration, some of the pull factors that affect the decisions of Polish citizens include an international labour market, lower degree of social control, as well as welfare system's instruments, which comprise more numerous health and financial benefits, additionally greater in quality or value and comparably more accessible abroad than in Poland. Awareness of international differences that affect a family's standing expectedly generates apposite and deep changes within family practices and family patterns. In order to grasp the transformations within families affected by migration, as well as broader mobility's impact on private life, a transnational perspective is increasingly used. A transnational lens seeks to underline a significance of globalization processes for individuals, families and other groups. It also portrays lives that could not be captured under the traditional assumptions about the definite and uni-directional nature of migration (Faist 2000; Levitt, Jaworsky 2007; Vertovec 2012, 2009; GlickSchiller et al. …

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