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


  • Filio Degni University of Turku
  • Seppo Pöntinen University of Turku
  • Mulki Mölsä University of Helsinki



Somalis, Finland, parenting, family, Islam, institutions


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


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Author Biographies

Filio Degni, University of Turku

Dr. Filio DEGNI, lecturer and researcher at the Department of Public Health, University of Turku in Finland. His research area is migration, culture, health and reproductive health.

Seppo Pöntinen, University of Turku

Dr. Seppo PÖNTINEN, Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Turku. His research area is sociology of health, social mobility and stratification.

Mulki Mölsä, University of Helsinki

Mulki MÖLSÄ, PhD candidate at the Department of Public Health and Sociology, University of Helsinki. Her PhD thesis research focuses on abortion and mental health of Somali refugee women in Finland.




How to Cite

Degni, F., Pöntinen, S., & Mölsä, M. (2006). Somali Parents’ Experiences of Bringing up Children in Finland: Exploring Social-Cultural Change within Migrant Households. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(3).