Expatriate Family Narratives on International Mobility: Key Characteristics of the Successful Moveable Family

  • Mila LazarovaEmail author
  • Yvonne McNulty
  • Monica Semeniuk


While the body of research that confirms the importance of family as a factor in expatriate success is growing steadily, organizations with expatriate employees do not appear to have utilized much of the knowledge generated by researchers. Expatriates still face just as many, if not more, family-related challenges as they did several decades ago. According to industry reports, organizations provide a wide variety of support services to address and hopefully ease many of the expatriation challenges. However, it is less than clear whether data provided by human resource (HR) managers and global mobility divisions is truly reflective of the experiences of expatriate families and whether the support that is offered is actually helpful. Further, despite increased attention to expatriate support issues, one thing has not changed: organizations and families generally underestimate, by a wide margin, the challenges of international assignments. Based on qualitative data from a sample of 656 respondents (primarily trailing spouses) in this chapter we explore family narratives on international mobility. We unpack issues such as key challenges and opportunities presented by international mobility as a family, the organizational support families receive – and the support they wish they could receive – during international relocations, the key characteristics of the successful “moveable family”, and the importance of family dynamics to successful assignments. We conclude by discussing emerging themes and ideas for future research on international mobility.


Expatriation Family Spouse Support Qualitative Married Divorce Children 



The authors would like to thank Robin Pascoe for generously sharing her “Family Matters” data with us.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mila Lazarova
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yvonne McNulty
    • 2
  • Monica Semeniuk
    • 1
  1. 1.Beedie School of BusinessSimon Fraser UniversityVancouverCanada
  2. 2.School of BusinessSingapore Institute of Management UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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