Volume 38 - Article 28 | Pages 737–772

Family reunification – who, when, and how? Family trajectories among migrants in Italy

By Elisa Barbiano di Belgiojoso, Laura Terzera

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Date received:12 Oct 2017
Date published:28 Feb 2018
Word count:7478
Keywords:family reunification, Italy, migration, sequence analysis, transnational couples


Background: Family reunification of migrants in their destination country is often the result of a process that includes one or more steps and combines family and migration events. However, the lack of relevant data often limits the possibility of studying all these stages.

Objective: The paper aims to identify family migration models by means of the entire family migration trajectory, highlighting the relationship of these models with the migration project and with the family, cultural, and gender norms of the country of origin.

Methods: We used sequence analysis on a large sample of resident families with at least one foreign-born member in Italy, using data collected by the Italian Institute of Statistics in 2011–2012. We focused exclusively on migrants from less developed countries and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Results: Our results indicate that family characteristics and stability in the host country are not always relevant for family reunification. Family, cultural, and gender norms of the home country and the nature of the migration project itself determine the family migration model. When the migration project becomes orientated, or converges over time to settlement, family reunification is pursued regardless of the possible difficulties and conditions during emigration. Conversely, during the time that migrants are maintaining a temporary project, family reunification is not even considered.

Contribution: Adopting a longitudinal approach, we generalised and extended previous results, considering migrants from additional countries and studying the reunification of all family members. We compared family migration models and their association with gender, cultural, and family norms of the country of origin and the family migration project.

Author's Affiliation

Elisa Barbiano di Belgiojoso - Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca (UNIMIB), Italy [Email]
Laura Terzera - Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca (UNIMIB), Italy [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Motherhood of foreign women in Lombardy: Testing the effects of migration by citizenship
Volume 33 - Article 23

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