Locating respectability: Rethinking intergenerational relationships in Iranian families living in Finland

Tutkimustuotos: OpinnäyteVäitöskirjaArtikkelikokoelma


This research investigates how families who have a refugee background experience intergenerational relationships. The study is focused on Iranian families who moved to Finland between the 1990s and early 2000s. The participants include both parents, and their now adult children, who moved to Finland with their families as young children, and grew to adulthood. The empirical material is inspired by ethnographic data collection, and includes 12 in-depth interviews and participant observations carried out between 2011 and 2014 in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

The study draws broadly from sociological studies on intergenerational relationships and migration. This research responds to some limitations in previous literature by asking how the intersecting positions of family members—in terms of class, gender, and migration—affect their intergenerational relationships. I employ the concept of respectability, which reflects on how some groups, such as the working class, may have different resources for being perceived worthy in society. Another key concept is intergenerational ambivalence, which represents the contradictions that manifest in parent-child relationships. These contradictions challenge parents and their children to navigate their role between dependency and autonomy. The analysis investigates how the intersecting position of the families, and their possibilities to be viewed as respectable, has a dramatic impact on their intergenerational relationships.

The results indicate that the parents make a distinction between their positionality in terms of migration and class, before and after migration. The parents also have only limited possibilities to represent themselves as respectable in Finland. In particular, the fathers often lose their previous positions in society. This is connected to their limited agency in Finland when defining their role as a provider for their family, and as their children’s guide. The mothers also experience that their position in Finnish society is lower, compared to the positionality they held prior to migration. However, they attempt to fit into gendered discourses of mothering as a way to build value for themselves. Despite these limitations, the parents try to define themselves and their family as respectable among their Finnish-Iranian communities through raising successful children. Thus, a family’s respectability becomes intertwined with the children’s achievements. This study also discusses how social control is experienced by the adult children, when presenting themselves as deserving and respectable children. The boundaries of respectability for the adult children are gendered.

Moreover, the results of this research contribute to the literature on migration and family ties through illuminating the ways in which intergenerational ambivalence is experienced. I argue that structural inequalities limit possibilities, as well as create a continuous struggle for families to be recognised as respectable members of society. This struggle manifests in parent-child relationships in a way that produces paradoxical demands between autonomy and dependency, and prompts them to sometimes question themselves and their abilities as members of their family.
Myöntävä instituutio
  • Helsingin yliopisto
  • Castren, Anna-Maija, Valvoja
  • Hiitola, Johanna, Valvoja, Ulkoinen henkilö
  • Kouvonen, Anne, Valvoja
Myöntöpäivämäärä17 kesäk. 2020
Painoksen ISBN978-951-51-3445-5
Sähköinen ISBN978-951-51-3446-2
TilaJulkaistu - 6 toukok. 2020
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG5 Tohtorinväitöskirja (artikkeli)


  • 5141 Sosiologia

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