Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Victor W. Marshall
This study conceptualizes the married woman's experience of relocation as a passage through a moving 'career'. This passage follows a prescribed, regularized sequence of stages involving decision-making, planning, relocation, and settling-in. Such a conceptualization allows the examination of geographic mobility as a process occurring over time and within the context of other life events; and of the role of the previous environment in shaping the definition of, and response to, the new ,social world.
The data for this study were collected through interviews with 123 married women who moved with their spouses into the metropolitan area of Hamilton and Burlington, Ontario. All had moved within Canada, but not less than 35 miles; had not lived in the target area within the preceding five years; and were interviewed within a year of their move. They were contacted through the cooperation of national van lines agents, a federal government mobility programme, and a municipal department of social services.
A focus of the research is on the wife's role in and response to her moving career. Her control over that career varies considerably with each stage. Women have little control over the initiation of the passage during the decision-making stage, but have substantial control over what they consider to be the 'mundane' tasks which comprise the planning and relocation stages. During the settling-in stage, however, most women play the key role in establishing the home and making the move successful for their families. Thus many women feel responsible for the success of a moving career which they had little role in initiating.
This research also addresses the question of whether, why, and in what ways women perceive their experience of relocation as different from that of their spouse. Most wives felt that moving was more difficult for them than for their husbands. The major differentiating factor was not the husband's occupational career per se, but rather the continuity of that career through working for the same employer or in a related field. Few women in this study experienced such occupational continuity.
The husband's experience of relocation not only differed from but also complicated that of his wife. This was most apparent in his leaving for the new community weeks or months before the wife and children. Although rarely examined by migration researchers, this sequencing of the moving career is an important aspect of wives experiences of relocation. Many women found this period of separation from the spouse the most difficult and disruptive stage of the moving career.
Family life cycle stage also emerged as an important factor distinguishing wives' experiences of geographic mobility. Women who became mothers or whose chiidren left the nuclear family at the time of the move found themselves in competing status passages. Relocation complicated the experiences of those who became mothers; for those who launched children from the home, the moving career both initiated and complicated passage through this family life cycle stage.
Migration researchers fundamentally disagree on whether the experience of relocation has primarily beneficial or disruptive consequences for people. In the short term, most women found moving to be highly disruptive of routine, taken-for-granted reality, and social life. There was no support for the proposition that as familiarity with the role of mover increases, women learn techniques for easing the disruptiveness of the passage. While the wives could generalize the passage so that the physical aspects of relocation became easier, the experience of social and emotional disruption actually increased with repeated relocation.
Nevertheless, most women felt that they had personally benefitted from geographic mobility, by becoming more independent, confident, and assertive. The long term consequences of relocation are more uncertain, however. Many women suffered a sense of rootlessness and lacked concept of a life-plan, of where and who they would be when the moves were over.
Matthews, Anne E. Martin, "Wives' Experiences of Relocation: Status Passage and the Moving Career" (1980). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3236.