Postmarital Residence Patterns and Wellbeing of Female Marriage Migrants in South China

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 07 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Tuen Yi CHIU, Harvard-Yenching Institute, USA, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Typically studied in the literature of cross-border marriages is the gendered marriage migration led by the female partners who physically migrated to reunite with their male partners, few look at those who do not spatially move as a result of cross-border marriage. In light of this, this paper attempts to contest this monotonous prototype by comparing three types of cross-border families with different residence patterns – (1) wife-to-husband, (2) husband-to-wife, and (3) dispersed residence (one or both partners commuting between two places). Using ethnographic data from Mainland China-Hong Kong cross-border families in South Chin, results revealed that diverse residence contexts did bring differential gendered power dynamics to couples, which significantly affected the wellbeing of female marriage migrants. Mainland migrant wives in the mainstream wife-to-husband residence group appears to be the most vulnerable group due to their disrupted social network, lack of childcare support from extended family, discrimination and assimilation difficulties in the immigration context. Whereas Mainland wives in the husband-to-wife residence group could maintain their social network, obtain childcare support from their natal families, and receive less discrimination and assimilation problems than those in the former group did. Interestingly, the dispersed residence context enabled Mainland wives to gain autonomy in household management and parenting and provided a context for Mainland wives to avoid conflicts with their husband and in-laws, but they had to shoulder the childcare burden alone and find ways to maintain their intimacy with their husband and to help their children to build bonding with the father. Nevertheless, prejudice and discrimination against female marriage migrants appears to be universal across various residence contexts, which may well suggest that the hypergamous nature of marriage migration appear to be a quintessential cause of gender inequalities in cross-border marriages, irrespective of residence localities.