Grandparents Across the Ocean: Eastern European Immigrants' Struggle to Maintain Intergenerational Relationships


immigration, transnational family, life-cycle changes


Many contemporary immigrants belong to transnational families—families that maintain significant contact with two or more countries. These families identify with multiple environments and deal with life-cycle changes over extensive geographical space. This paper has two major aims: 1) to better understand how today's immigrant families facilitate intergenerational relationships across significant distances; and 2) to learn more about the understudied population of recent immigrant professionals from Eastern Europe in the United States. To accomplish these aims, in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 24 immigrant mothers and fathers from Eastern European countries residing in the United States. Based on grounded theory methodology, we identified four themes: (1) The definition of "family" and the importance of extended family ties: "The relationships are tighter knit than those in the U.S."; (2) The role of grandparents in childrearing: "Who else do you think is more appropriate?"; (3) The strategies of maintaining intergenerational relationships: "I want my son to know his predecessors' language "; and (4) The stress of being torn between two worlds: "I don't want to be happy at the expense of my extended family." Our findings suggest that, in spite of advances in communication and travel, and a strong desire for continuation of intergenerational relations in immigrant families, emotional transnationalism is not easily achieved.

Original Publication Citation

*Nesteruk, O., & Marks, L. D. (2009). Grandparents across the ocean: Eastern European immigrants’ struggle to maintain intergenerational relationships. Journal of Comparative Family Studies,40, 77-95.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Comparative Family Studies




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor