Transnational Families


  • Elizabetta Zontini

Document type: Encyclopedia Entry

Appears in: Work and Family Encyclopedia

Year: 2007


  • Alternative Work Arrangements
  • Changing Families
  • Community
  • Global
  • Work and Family


  • Sociology


Globalization of production and labor flows have increased the frequency of transnational family forms, which are now common among both the professional global elites as well as among poor migrant workers. Their primary characteristic is having members spread out across nation states but still maintaining a sense of collective welfare and unity (Bryceson & Vorela, 2002). Their kinship networks cross at ‘residential nodes’ in two or several countries (Bjeren 1997: 237). The composition of these nodes may vary, not only periodically, as a result of the coming and goings of new immigrants and returnees, but also cyclically as a result of the working and living arrangements of family members (Zontini, 2002). Conventionally, households are defined as ‘a group of people who share the same residence and participate collectively, if not always co-operatively, in the basic tasks of reproduction and consumption’ (Chant & McIlwaine, 1995: 4). But in transnational households one parent, both parents or adult children may be producing income abroad while other family members carry out the functions of reproduction, socialization, and consumption in the country of origin (Parreñas, 2001). Thus, transnationalism forces us to reconsider our understanding of households and families based on the idea of co-residency and physical unity, and to take into account the possibility of spatial separation.

Link:Transnational_Families encyclopedia