Transnationalism, Family life, and Wellbeing

Transnationalism, Family life, and Wellbeing: Opportunities and Challenges facing Thai-British Families in the UK

The proposed project aims to undertake a detailed empirical study of identity formation and social relationships within Thai-British families, and their potential impacts on the wellbeing and sustenance of the family. Theoretically, a first insight comes from a transnational perspective by looking at how Thai-British families generate forms of identification, emotional belonging, as well as communication links, social activities, financial and social remittances, and extended family ties, that link across the two countries. As second comes from theories (interculturalism, multiculturalism, socio-cultural integration, assimilationism) that examine how cultural difference and social interaction within a society of settlement are related to emotional, psychological and material wellbeing. A third seeks to build on insights from the literature on ‘mixed’ ethnicity/race and transnational families, parenting and wellbeing.

The project addresses the experiences of Thai-British families with children. Given the composition of the target population (see below), we envisage that in most
families the father will be British and the mother Thai. The focus is on Thai-British families who are primarily settled in Britain for most of the year, though they most likely make frequent visits to, have strong links with, and extended families in Thailand, and they may send remittances and own property or businesses in Thailand too. How does the transnationalism of these families become manifest in identities and social actions? And how do these transnational families manage to sustain themselves, emotionally and materially, and what factors and challenges lead to them ‘working’ or ‘breaking down’ in the UK?

A specific focus is on how a Thai-British family (unit of analysis) produces sustainable transnational activities, identities and ties, and combines this with trying to preserve the family wellbeing in the western society of settlement. In this way, the study looks at how transnational Thai-British families are established and sustain themselves, and the opportunities and challenges that family members face in the UK because of their cultural difference (e.g., facing discrimination, cultural stereotypes, being seen as ‘exotic’, challenges of socio-cultural integration etc.).

Most Thai-British families with children resident in the UK result from ‘marriage migration’, where Thai women (often significantly younger) are married to British men. The children, whose parents come from different cultural, religious and national backgrounds, have to negotiate a space for themselves between these cultural differences, while growing up in the UK, which has its own ‘multicultural’ imprint for socio-cultural relations. What are the specific challenges to parenting and what strategies do parents adopt in this context?

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The doctoral project is led by Miss Pattraporn Chuenglertsiri, under the supervision of Professor Paul Statham and Professor Charles Watters.

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