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A child blowing the soap bubbles

Better future for children motivates family mobility in North and East Europe

Children often play a key role in the mobility of a family: either they migrate from one country to another with their family, or a member of their family migrates to another country in order to safeguard a better future for them. Securing a good life for the younger generations is often one of the most important drivers of migration, according to the University of Eastern Finland project Families on the Move: Children’s Perspectives on Migration in Europe. The project examined families migrating from Latvia and Estonia to Finland; from Latvia to the United Kingdom and to Finland; from Russia to Finland; and cyclical mobility by the Roma between Romania and Finland.

Interviews with Estonian and Russian migrant families show that children’s education can become a project that involves the entire family, and a gateway to a better future when the family is settling in the new home country. In Roma families in Romania, on the other hand, children are often left in the care of relatives back home; nevertheless, the motivation behind their parents’ working abroad is to create a better livelihood and better well-being for the family. All case studies conducted in the project show that a family member’s mobility has a strong impact on the lives of family members and relatives who remain in the home country.

The key findings of the project are showcased in a new book published by Palgrave Macmillan, entitled Translocal Childhoods and Family Mobility in East and North Europe. The book presents the findings of the Families on the Move: Children’s Perspectives on Migration in Europe project, led by Professor of Social and Public Policy Laura Assmuth at the University of Eastern Finland. Funded by Kone Foundation in 2012–2014, the three-year international project analysed mobility from children’s perspectives in the Nordic context of migration. Research into family migration now continues in an Academy of Finland project entitled Inequalities of Mobility: Relatedness and Belonging of Transnational Families in the Nordic Migration Space, also led by Professor Assmuth.

Interpersonal relations and agency play key roles in the lives of translocal children

The findings highlight the importance of interpersonal relations in the lives of translocal children, and especially the relationship with grandparents is important. The findings also draw attention to challenges associated with translocality. It is not always easy to stay in touch with those back home, and virtual means of communication are not the same as physical closeness. An important finding is that the meanings children give to age, time and passing of time is completely different from the meanings given to them by adults. Increasing attention should be paid to children’s experiences, viewpoints and agency also in the contexts of migration, and a translocal, mobile way of life.

The project researchers analysed translocal childhoods by paying attention to bodily experiences associated with the material aspects of two homes, travelling and adapting to a new place, as well as to the situatedness of the researcher. The book presents different types of methodological solutions the research group used when trying to approach mobility and the everyday life of translocal families from children’s perspective. The project researchers used novel participatory and creative methods, such as story crafting, drawing and shadow theatre production and presentations in collaboration with children. The researchers also travelled with children and their families, and participated in children’s everyday life.

The book discusses the significance of translocal life and globalisation for example when parents are choosing a name for their child, and when they spend long summer holidays back in their country of origin. Attention is also directed at inequality and how it manifests in the everyday life of children through different practices and possibilities in their country of origin and destination when, for example, giving pocket money or celebrating Christmas. The simultaneous presence of multiple languages in children’s lives, as well as their agency in different phases of life are also analysed in the study.

Laura Assmuth, Marina Hakkarainen, Aija Lulle & Pihla Maria Siim (eds) Translocal Childhoods and Family Mobility in East and North Europe. Palgrave 2018. 271 pages. www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783319897332. Illustrations: Riitta Hakkarainen

For further information, please contact: Professor Laura Assmuth, tel. +358 50 442 1179, laura.assmuth(at)uef.fi