Living apart causes regret for immigrant families

Separated immigrant families in Canada often regret their decision to live apart, this according to a new study from CERIS – The Ontario Metropolis Centre, led by researchers from York University’s LaMarsh Centre for Child & Youth Research and the York Institute of Health Research.

Parent-child separation is increasingly prevalent across the world as transnational families live in two or more different countries during migration. Immigrant parents separate from their children for different reasons. For many, the difficulty of obtaining employment after arriving in Canada and the struggle to get settled leads some parents to leave their children behind or send them  back to their home countries for an undetermined time.

“The study also revealed that cultural factors do play into the rationale and the response of immigrant families,” says Yvonne Bohr, the study’s principal investigator. “For example, Chinese parents often send their children back to China to be close to their grandparents, while South Asian families may send their older children back home for a more acceptable education.”

York researchers focused on Chinese, South Asian and African-Caribbean families, three immigrant communities in Toronto in which separation is not uncommon. They found that separated families often suffer and the effects of the separation can be irreversible.

In some cases, family reunification was considered as difficult as the separation itself because of the estrangement that had developed between children and their parents. Most respondents noted that they often felt they had no choice at the time, but said they would not separate again if in the same circumstances.

The researchers argue that this phenomenon is common enough in Toronto to merit specific support for separated families during or after migration. They pinpoint the licensing and certification processes in Canada as one of the most significant barriers for immigrants that can potentially lead to splitting parents and children apart.

York professors Yvonne Bohr and Michaela Hynie, doctoral students Natasha Whitfield and Cynthia Shih and Sadia Zafar conducted the research.

For more on this study, see the CERIS Research Summary.

Image courtesy of CERIS – The Ontario Metropolis Project