Journal of International Migration and Integration

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 1065–1083 | Cite as

Skilled Immigrants and the Negotiation of Family Relations During Settlement in Calgary, Alberta

  • Jeanna Parsons LeighEmail author


When re-establishing their lives in Canada, international migrants with dependent children regularly encounter dramatically different conditions for family life. The parents’ employment situation, the limited availability of extended kin to help with child rearing, and a multicultural and relatively more permissive social environment, all of these invite or even demand changes in newcomers’ family practices. Yet, more information is needed about the ways in which skilled immigrants negotiate the changed conditions for work and family life in this country, and the impact this has on family dynamics during settlement. Drawing on data from interviews with 30 skilled immigrants living in Calgary, Alberta, this paper explores how coming to Canada impacted participants’ situations of paid work, parenting practices, and familial gender relations. Findings suggest that strained economic and social resources often limited the extent to which mothers and fathers were able to maintain an organization of family life similar to what they had established in their country of origin. However, while in some cases, shifts in family formation caused heightened levels of stress and strain and further entrenched the doing of conventional gender roles, in others, changed conditions acted as a catalyst for positive change. The tools that eased the burdens of settlement for some are explored, and recommendations are made for how to better support newcomer families.


Skilled immigrants Family relations Gender Settlement 



Funding for this study was provided by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


  1. Albanese, P. (2009). Ethnicity, Immigration, and Family Life. In M. Baker (Ed.), Families: the changing trends in Canada (pp. 130–153). Toronto: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  2. Albert, S., Takouda, P., Robichaud, Y., & Haq, R. (2013). Building a self-directed process for the development of internationally trained professional profiles in Canada. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 14(4), 671–688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anisef, P., Kilbride, K., Ochocka, J., & Janzen, R. (2001). Parenting issues of newcomer families in Ontario. Kitchener, Ontario: Center for Research and Education in Human Services and Center of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement.Google Scholar
  4. Arendell, T. (1997). Reflections on the researcher-researched relationship: a woman interviewing men. Qualitative Sociology, 20, 341–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ataca, B., & Berry, J. W. (2002). Psychological, sociocultural and marital adaptation of Turkish immigrant couples in Canada. International Journal of Psychology, 37(1), 13–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aycan, Z., & Berry, J. W. (1996). Impact of employment-related experiences on immigrants’ psychological well-being and adaptation to Canada. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 28(3), 240–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boyd, M., & Grieco, G. (2003). Women and migration: incorporating gender into international migration theory (Migration Policy Institute, p. 106).Google Scholar
  8. Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  9. Creese, G. (2012). Negotiating migration, destabilizing masculine identities. In J. Laker (Ed.), Canadian perspectives on men and masculinities: an introductory reader (pp. 292–305). Don Mills: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Creese, G., Dyck, I., & McLaren, A. T. (2008). The ‘flexible’ immigrant? Human capital discourse, the family household and labour market strategies. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 9, 269–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Creese, G., Dyck, I., & McLaren, A. T. (2009). Gender, generation and the ‘immigrant family’: negotiating migration processes. In B. Fox (Ed.), Family patterns, gender relations (3rd ed., pp. 496–508). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Deutsch, F. (1999). Halving it all: how equally shared parenting works. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Deutsch, F. (2007). Undoing gender. Gender & Society, 21, 106–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Doucet, A. (2004). “It’s almost like I have a job, but I don’t get paid”: fathers at home reconfiguring work, care, and masculinity. Fathering, 2, 277–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Doucet, A. (2006). Do men mother? Fatherhood, care and domestic responsibility. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  16. Erez, E., Adelman, M., & Gregory, C. (2009). Intersections of immigration and domestic violence. Feminist Criminology, 4(1), 32–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Essess, V., Ravanera, Z., Burstein, M., Hallman, S., & Medianu, S. (2012). Alberta Settlement Outcomes Survey Presentation. Ontario: University of Western Ontario and Pathways to Prosperity Pan-Canadian Partnership.Google Scholar
  18. Este, D., & Tachble, A. (2008). Fatherhood in the Canadian context: perceptions and experiences of Sudanese refugee men. Sex Roles, 60, 456–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gamburd, M. (2003). Breadwinner No More. In B. Ehrenreich & A. R. Hochschild (Eds.), Global woman: nannies, maids, and sex workers in the new economy (pp. 190–206). New York: Metropolitan Books.Google Scholar
  20. George, U., & Chaze, F. (2009). Tell me what i need to know: South Asian women, social capital and settlement. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 10, 265–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Glenn, E. N. (1996). Split household, small producer, and dual wage-earner: an analysis of Chinese American family strategies. In S. Coontz, M. Parson, & G. Raley (Eds.), American Families: A Multicultural Reader. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Grahame, K. M. (2003). “For the family”: Asian immigrant women’s triple day. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 30(1), 65–90.Google Scholar
  23. Grant, P. R., & Nadin, S. (2007). The credentialing problems of foreign trained personnel from Asia and Africa intending to make their home in Canada: a social psychological perspective. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 8(2), 141–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jain, A., & Belsky, J. (1997). Fathering and acculturation: immigrant Indian families with young children. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 59, 873–883.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Legerski, E., & Cornwall, M. (2010). Working-class job loss, gender, and the negotiation of household labor. Gender and Society, 24(4), 447–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Man, G. (2009). From Hong Kong to Canada: immigration and the changing family lives of middle-class women from Hong Kong. In B. Fox (Ed.), Family patterns, gender relations (3rd ed., pp. 477–495). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. McCoy, L., & Masuch, C. (2007). Beyond ‘entry-level’ jobs: immigrant women in non- regulated professional occupations. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 8(2), 185–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Moon, S. (2003). Immigration and mothering: case studies from two generations of Korean immigrant women. Gender and Society, 17(6), 840–860.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ranson, G. (2010). Against the grain: couples, gender, and the reframing of parenting. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  30. Reitz, J., & Banerjee, R. (2007). Racial inequality, social cohesion and policy issues in Canada. In K. G. Banting, T. J. Courchene, & F. L. Seidle (Eds.), Belonging? Diversity, Recognition and Shared Citizenship in Canada (pp. 492–544). Canada: McGill Queens University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Salaf, J., & Greve, A. (2011). Can women’s social networks migrate? In M. Kimmel, A. Aronson, & A. Kaler (Eds.), The Gendered Society Reader (pp. 151–161). Don Mills: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Seongeun, K., Conway-Turner, K., Sherif-Trask, B., & Woolfolk, T. (2006). Reconstructing mothering among Korean immigrant working class women in the United States. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 37(1), 43–58.Google Scholar
  33. Shan, H. (2009). Shaping the re-training and re-education experiences of immigrant women: the credential and certificate regime in Canada. The International Journal of Lifelong Education, 28(3), 353–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shan, H. (2014). Immigrant parenting. In A. C. Michalos (Ed.), Encyclopedia of quality of life research. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  35. Shibutani, T. (1986). Social Processes: An Introduction to Sociology. California: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  36. Somerville, K., & Walsworth, S. (2010). Admission and employment criteria discrepancies: experiences of skilled immigrants in Toronto. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 11(3), 341–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Suárez-Orozco, C., & Carhill, A. (2008). Afterword: New directions in research with immigrant families and their children. In H. Yoshikawa & N. Way (Eds.), Beyond the family: contexts of immigrant children’s development (New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, Vol. 121, pp. 87–104).Google Scholar
  38. United Way of Calgary and Area. (2013). Signposts II: a survey of the social issues and needs of Calgarians. Alberta: Calgary.Google Scholar
  39. VanderPlatt, M. (2007). Integration Outcomes for Immigrant Women in Canada: A Review of the Literature 2000–2007. Halifax: CERIS Working Paper No. 8–2007 <>Google Scholar
  40. West, C., & Zimmerman, D. H. (1987). Doing Gender. Gender and Society, 1(2), 125–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Werklund School of EducationUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

Personalised recommendations