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'Missing links': exploring experience of migration and grandparenthood among older-generation of Polish migrants in the UK

Sara Bojarczuk
Institute for International Integration Studies Sutherland Centre
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin 2


IIIS Discussion Paper No. 457

Significant evidence indicates expanding patterns of settlement among Polish migrants in the United Kingdom. Since 2004 substantial family migration has shifted considerably to involve new actors and expand across generations, including children and grandparents. The fact that children are often the last link in the chain raises the question of who provides child-care in the migrant family. This paper investigates the concept of grandparenthood in the context of Polish migration to the United Kingdom after 2004. By employing semi-structured in-depth interviews, it aims to explore the experience of grandparenthood among Polish migrants in the UK. Furthermore, it investigates role of grandparents within the migrant families, the transnational care and support they provide to other family members. This work contributes to the theoretical expansion of the concept of care chain as well as to the understanding of grandparenthood in the context of migration and transnationalism. It shows how grandparents' experience is constructed by self-perception of being grandparent rather than migrant. As a result, such identification leads to the notion that this generation constitutes the "missing link" in the chain of migration and care. While strategies employed by participants' reflect tactics common among economic migrants, the findings show that they primarily perceive themselves as family members who provide care and support, which for them, is a source of great personal satisfaction. This, in turn reflects on the level of integration, employment and dependency on their adult children. It also raises challenges emerging from being a member of transnational family, such as shift in relationship with other family members and difficulties in deciding whether to stay or return.

Keywords: Polish migration, transnational family, grandparents, care chain

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Last updated 10 October 2014 by IIIS (Email).