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Family finds a way: experiences of multigenerational transnational new Chinese immigrant families in New Zealand

Ran, Guanyu



The Immigration Act 1987 fundamentally transformed New Zealand’s immigration policy from one that was race-based to one based on economic needs of New Zealand society. It opened the borders to immigrants from much wider regions. As a result of this “open-door” immigration policy, a substantial new Chinese immigrant community from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established in New Zealand. Building a closely-tied multigenerational family is an important feature of family life for this immigrant group. Often, multiple generations live together or within close proximity with one another in highly interdependent relationships. However, a growing number have also started to maintain their family lives transnationally, with different family members across generations living apart but maintaining close ties, with frequent interactions across national borders. Given this transnational family arrangement is very different from Chinese traditional practices of family maintenance, the impact of this change on the wellbeing and functioning of these families and their individual family members is an issue of increasing academic interest. This thesis responds to these concerns and explores the relationship between people’s experiences of transnational migration and their multigenerational family dynamics. Through engaging with individual life stories and perspectives of 45 participants across generations from new PRC immigrant families living in New Zealand, this thesis seeks to understand how those families with closely-tied multiple generations cope with dislocation and relocation during the process of transnational migration. It also investigates how transnational migration experiences contribute to new emergent domestic dynamics, including the development of new strategies and practices to maintain family traditions, interests and coherence across national borders, as well as shifting intergenerational relationships. The empirical data demonstrates that despite the increasing proportion of new PRC families living transnationally, their experiences of managing family lives vary. I argue that this diversification of transnational family experiences is largely attributed to the interaction of various impact factors associated with both the internal dynamics of immigrant families themselves and external contexts where those families are closely related. My research also attests that family members’ transnational migration experiences accelerate changes to the way they perform family life, particularly amplifying intergenerational differences and altering intergenerational dependency. Even though those changes introduce vital challenges towards multigenerational family maintenance and coherence, my research reveals that families are resilient and able to actively forge multistranded resources as well as engage various transnational activities in response to those challenges. While this thesis poses intriguing perspectives and culturally-specific scenarios to study immigrant families in New Zealand society, more importantly, it also contributes to the broad theorisation of transnational family formation and maintenance in the increasingly globalised world.


Ran, G. (2021). Family finds a way: experiences of multigenerational transnational new Chinese immigrant families in New Zealand. (Thesis). Massey University. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Dec 8, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 9, 2022
Public URL
Award Date May 27, 2021


Family Finds A Way: Experiences Of Multigenerational Transnational New Chinese Immigrant Families In New Zealand (3.1 Mb)

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