Childhood and Parenting in Transnational Settings

Author:   Viorela Ducu , Mihaela Nedelcu , Aron Telegdi-Csetri
Publisher:   Springer
Reviewer:   Sila Mishra

Childhood and Parenting in Transnational Settings

Viorela Ducu , Mihaela Nedelcu , Aron Telegdi-Csetri (2019) Childhood and Parenting in Transnational Settings, International Perspectives on Migration (Volume 15), Springer 978-3030081379, 204 p.

“As fluid and idiosyncratic as transnational life might be, it only acquires meaning, therewith significance, once it acquires sociality per se.”

The book is an endeavour towards value-cultivation in transnational migration by giving voice to the gender revolution and touching upon the issues of emotion-deaf care politics, fatherhood dynamics, the role of the family in increasing the vulnerability of the children, ICT in the moral economy and grandparents’ agency in intergenerational solidarity. Each essay is a creatively narrated emotional account that touches key strings in a transnational familial setup and has contributed to the present-dependent self-understanding approach. There are ten chapters in this book based on “Children in transnational families” and “challenges around parenting in migration”.

Recognising transnational migration from the lens of Filipino children, Asuncion Fresnoza-Flot, in chapter 1 explored a plethora of dimensions like contextual and temporal mobility with the change in arrangements of child care, stay-behind children’s spatial mobility from one family to another, educational mobility, mobility across administrative contexts, socio-cultural mobility and attempted to capture the journey of self-identification and generation of social capital in his limited sample. With fluid precision, the chapter provides an account of the emotional experiences of children emanating from family separation and reunification as well as the mobility and immobility experienced by the children. The author points toward the necessity for an analytical framework that is empathetic towards the perspective of children, their spatiality, agency, and subjectivity and emphasised unlocking the nexus between micro and macro level processes. However, the chapter has not provided basic information on the socio-cultural and economic status of the respondents (e.g., land holdings, monthly consumption expenditure, sibship size, gender of the child, and the differently abled status of the child, literacy, class, household infrastructure, marital status of the migrant member among others). This is essential in understanding the context and drawing meaningful insights into the scientific aspect of the study. Additionally, though the author claims about the diversity of childhood in various socio-cultural and political settings, the majority of migrant mothers are into domestic services and lack information on sibship size and gendered data it becomes difficult to comment upon the sample being representative of the population. A small sample size of children was studied without a detailed account of their personal and socio-economic characteristics like sibship size and gender blurs the nexus created by the author in the objective and empirical evidence. From the methodology, it is still unclear why the author chose Belgium and France as destination countries, whether it was because of the trends in outmigration from secondary data, or whether these countries are special cases demanding an investigation. The three distinct cases of migration are compelling environments to understand the dynamics of migration and childhood. Had there been a discussion on the coping mechanism of the children in the three cases of migration as to how children spend their time it would have buttressed the objective in a stronger sense by explaining the mental well-being of the children.

Nóra Kovács’ chapter is a powerful and moving exploration of the childcare system, children’s experiences in live-in caring arrangements, and the Chinese entrepreneur migrants in Hungary from the lens of a caregiver. It builds on the resilience and vulnerability of mobile children receiving live-in-care in Hungary's costly and unorganised caregiving market. The author reports that the parenting is ‘authoritarian’, disregards children’s emotional needs, and encourages carers to use corporal punishment if necessary. Though the study has attempted to enlighten the readers by exploring a less understood area of caregiving from the lens of a caregiver that lies at the intersection of policies in the origin country, a ‘black market’ of caregiving for the mobile children whose parents cannot afford other caring arrangements for their children and amidst all of this the children is at the receiving end of the vulnerabilities. Merely attempting to conclude the caregiver’s lens and that too with little to no diversity has the potential to create bias. This seems insufficient given the issue's peculiarity, sensitivity, and complexity. An attempt should have been made to have a birds’ eye view of the issue rather than conveniently picking up a side to narrate and generalise some conclusion. The study makes several generalizations that need validation and in-depth research by complementing the ethnographic research with other empirical methodologies and bringing in case studies from different countries. From the policy perspective, it seems from the study that the onus should also be placed on the state for ensuring an organised egalitarian caregiving arrangement for children.


Chapter 4 by Rafaela H. Pascoal and Adina N. E. Schwartz is a bold enterprise in four ways; firstly they aim at explaining the plight of left-behind children stuck between “Push” and “Pull” in Romania which has undergone a continuous source of human trafficking; secondly, while examining the nexus between human trafficking and stay-behind children, the authors realised the role of family environment that exposes children to human trafficking; thirdly, it also explores the reason why despite numerous legislations at place parents do not report to their intentions to migration and don’t fulfill other legal requirements because they fear that their child would be institutionalised; fourth, through their social experiment reveals the instances of emotional instability, high risk of being trafficked and taking up drug use, the vulnerability of being trafficked by extended families and their parents and rampant sexual harassment of stay behind female children. The authors give a balanced account of the role of the environment that exposes stay-behind children of the migrant to vulnerabilities.

At the heart of Chapter 5 by Iulia-Elena Hossu lies the journey of young Moldavians acquiring (or reacquiring) Double citizenship of Romania, which is many a time considered a time and resource-consuming process exposing them to reiterate family histories, and how the process influenced their family structures, relations, and practices. Notably, the study used qualitative analysis by using the snowball sampling method as the sampling structure. It explored how the process of citizenship acquisition (reacquisition) maintains family cohesion, rediscovers family histories, and provides the opportunity to parents’ generation to act as a link between children and grandparents. Intriguingly, the author reports a usual gendered migration pattern as a passing note, however, this generalisation asks for further clarification. The lack of a gendered perspective demands gender segregation in the analysis as it intersects with migration, ages, and ethnicity and has the potential to highlight how the intersection of gender in the family gives differential results.

Chapter 6 starts by offering a window to the challenges of children in transnational families (considered to be one form of “post-modern families”) along with the shift in gender and intergenerational relations propelled by the reorganisation of the family. Isabelle when asked about her situation post the migration of her mother responded that she had both won and lost, gained material well-being, but felt more abandoned despite being with siblings, survived challenges but saw her performance in school declining, and missed guidance from her father. Drawing on the knowledge of women despite being of any age, relation or be it, migrant transnational families or immigrant transnational families, saddled with round-the-clock care work of closed ones, offer more emotional support to stay behind elderly parents as compared to their male counterparts, the author asks “who cares for the children and elderly” and introduce a unique framework of comparing experiences of the children (when the migrant is a father or mothers) as well as the experiences of the elderly parents (when the immigrant is sons or daughter). Though the study has made a bold attempt to understand the objective at hand, however, given the burgeoning stream of literature (Freeman, 2019) elucidating how the growing cohort of millennials men is diverse ethnically, digitally, late-marrying, and less bounded by gender norms and endeavour to run their families democratically, it becomes inevitable to include various dimensions like age, literacy, region (urban/rural), marital status of  (divorce, married, widow) while examining this question on “who cares for children”. A similar result is established by the author while addressing the question of “who cares for the elderly”. Women offer support to stay-behind parents more so than men.

Alissa V. Tolstokorova’s study on the dynamics of masculinity in transnational families endeavours to fill the gap in the literature by augmenting our understanding of migration in modernized paternity from the lens of fatherhood in Ukraine. Departing from the stance on the “modernization of fatherhood”, the theory of “responsible fathering” and using the concept of  “patriarchal dividend” deriving from “social dividends of migration” argues that the escapades of staying behind men can be gendered, regendered and degendered. The author has complemented the field research with the analysis of secondary theoretical sources and content analysis on media resources to comprehend two major trends in paternity practices among stay-behind fathers; first, the reconceptualization of masculinity status associated with the urbanization of men (responsible paternity and their parents); second, the devaluation of the masculinity status and mercantilization of fathering (irresponsible fathering). Not discounting the potential power of the research from the reader’s perspective I found that although, the study is quite rich and at times enlightening, however, the reader would find themselves coming up with a grey area that lies at the intersection of these two extreme cases of fatherhood.

Chapter 8 broadens our understanding of one of the most noteworthy intersections of transnational migration and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in recent times. The study reports ICT consumption as a ‘meaning-making’ process allowing the family to actively engage in a reciprocal relation, bargain identities, and supervise children from afar which thus becomes an integral part of ‘the moral economy. Being the ordinary co-presence routines, usage of ICT-mediated communication has led to an existential crisis, readjustment of the definition of appropriate parenting in some cases, and an essential source of comfort for migrant mothers and a cognitive reminder of the plurality of roles in the other. Thus, the study establishes how transnational migrants in the process of counterbalancing the sense of loss have been able to adapt to changes, navigate and combine their double living with the help of ICT.


Chapter 9 gives an exhaustive account of the caregiving arrangements with children and the decision to migrate and reunite by examining transnational parenting among migrants in Sweden from Poland and Sweden. The study has adopted three distinct cases to delineate crucial life experiences by considering three cases of migration; first, jointly migrating couples who delegate care arrangements for their children among relatives in the origin country; second, a mother migrating as a lead mover; third, father migrating while other members stay-behind. Authors apply some principles like historical time and space, timing in lives linked lives and human agency are manifested in structural regimes of opportunities and constraints in both the home and host countries. They further noted that transnational parenting is a difficult business as reunification in Sweden unveiled an emotional gap due to separation.

Bringing transnational elements into intergenerational solidarity (downward solidarity) with a focus on the older generation, Chapter 10 incorporates a quantitative approach, an approach less relied upon in the study of transnational families in the context of Romania. The author chooses to examine functional solidarity (financial assistance, timely assistance, and co-residence) flowing from parents to their migrant adult children. The study sheds light on how elderly members get involved in transnational mobility to care for their migrant children and how older parents can perform grandparental roles from a distance.  Further sustaining, the gendered provision of intergenerational support the study reports evidence of mothers caring for their migrant kins than their husbands. To sum up, the study establishes that migration doesn’t disrupt intergenerational relations which remain mutual and multidirectional. However, the study only limits the occupational status of children’s needs which has not been understood in nexus with the duration of migration and the nature of welfare regimes for migrants in the destination countries.

In an endeavour to bridge the gap in the literature on the availability and involvement of grandparents in downward solidarity, Malika Wyss and Mihaela Nedelcu’s Chapter is suitably imposing given its emotionally engaging stories portraying intricately interwoven intergenerational relations in transnational migration. The title sets the narrative and the findings buttress the objective of the study. It shows how G0 grandparents act as the social backup in childbirth circumstances, troubleshooting occasional contingencies, full and permanent childcare, intergenerational sharing, and transmission. The study could be extended to understand the context of developing countries, how sibship size impacts the caregiving arrangements of grandparents, and how gendered is the caregiving dynamics (whether the gender of the caregiver has any impact on the caregiving patterns or how the gender of the care receiving affects the caregiving) and from the lens of grandparents how do they find this new care dynamics.  Moreover, to make the study rich in actionable items some policy interventions facilitating the movement of grandparents could be considered.

The book has attempted to contribute to the developing field of transnational families in migration however, covering the diversity of experiences, countries, and perspectives the book falls short of addressing the two main challenges unveiled from the literature- quantitative and theoretical approaches. Moreover, not discounting the potential power of the book, from the policy perspective, the book offers fewer windows and intends to be more inclined toward the positive aspect.  For a reader, this book is an enlightening experience that boldly eclipses the ignorance around the issues of transnational migration and adds fluidity and dynamism to an egalitarian approach to understanding transnational elements.



Freeman, M. (2019). Time use of millennials and non-millennials. Monthly Labor Review, 1-13.

Reviewed by Sila Mishra

Sila Mishra is a research scholar in the Department of Economic Sciences at IIT- Kanpur. Her area of interest lies in Applied Microeconomics. Email: [email protected]


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