Does Loneliness Differ Among Migrants with Different Types of Support Networks? Role of Transnational Relationships in Polish Migrants in the Netherlands

Maja Djundeva, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Lea Ellwardt, University of Cologne

Migration out of one’s country of origin presents a particularly salient factor for loneliness. Migrants need to emotionally and socially adapt to their new life circumstances, often alone and far away from their home country. Loneliness may be distinguished into lack of social relationships (social loneliness) and lack of intimate companionship (emotional loneliness).

Previous findings that show a negative association between perceived support and social loneliness, as well as reduced emotional loneliness for partnered versus single individuals, cannot be generalized straightforwardly to migrant populations. Migrants likely use different strategies in building and nurturing long-lasting social relationships, and more often engage in friendships and partnerships with other migrants than non-migrants. Due to differential adaptation and assimilation processes, social support networks are expected to be highly heterogeneous among migrants.

The study examines the extent to which social support and intermarriage of Polish migrants in the Netherlands serve as precursors of loneliness. Our approach delineates the different heterogeneous types of support networks, by allowing for multiple combinations of support and transnationality in the networks’ composition.

Using the Families of Poles in the Netherlands on 1131 migrants, and latent class analysis, we model different types of support networks based on received emotional and instrumental support provided by kin and non-kin residing in the Netherlands and abroad. This multidimensional classification furthermore considers variety of supporters (roles), transnational character of a network, and partnership status (single, endogamous, exogamous).

Four networks are identified that differ in support, transnationality and partner status. Respondents in the least supportive network type, characterized by low support from both kin and non-kin and low variety in supporters, report lowest social loneliness. Respondents with a Polish or non-Dutch partner (endogamous) are less emotionally lonely compared to those with a Dutch (exogamous) or without a partner (single).

Presented in Session 35: Migration and Health