Somali Parents' Experiences of Bringing up Children in Finland: Exploring Social-Cultural Change within Migrant Households

Filio Degni, Seppo Pöntinen, Mulki Mölsä


Approximately 5,000 to 6,000 Somalis arrived in Finland between 1990 and 1995 through Russia. Currently, 8,096 have settled permanently in the country. The data reported here is from a 1998-1999 research survey carried out in the Finish cities of Helsinki and Turku. The survey of 117 married Somalis explored the social-cultural determinants of contraception use. The paper presented here focuses upon one particular aspect of the survey. We selected 21 Somali parents (11 women and 10 men) to look in-depth at the experiences of Somali migrants raising children in Finland. All of the respondents selected have more than 5 children in their family and all were asked to describe their experiences of raising children in Finland and, more generally, in establishing and maintaining family structures. Unlike their experiences in Somali, bringing up large families (by Westerns standards) is not a collective matter in Finland where biological parents are left to manage the family for themselves. A number of challenges also accompany this shift in family norms: first, and most notably, there is the need to re-establish control over one's life in an alien environment; second, intergenerational conflict between adult migrants and their adolescent children is often heightened. The findings indicate that Somalis' experiences of raising children in Finland raise important parenting challenges associated with changing generational, gender and family relations within the migrant household. Importantly, this case study of large Somali families shows how migrants' lives are intricately linked to the household dynamic between home and host country.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs060388


Somalis; Finland; parenting; family; Islam; institutions

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Copyright (c) 2006 Filio Degni, Seppo Pöntinen, Mulki Mölsä

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