Article Title

Guilt as a consequence of migration


Migration, for some individuals, can be a highly emotional experience. Guilt expressed by daughters, as a result of leaving parents and family following migration, necessitates exploration but has been largely neglected in migrant research. This study involved migrant women from the United Kingdom (UK) to Australia. A cross-sectional design in a naturalistic setting was used which involved both quantitative (questionnaire) and qualitative approaches. In total 154 participants completed a questionnaire; however it is the responses of a subset of 40 women who were interviewed which are reported here. Bowlby's (1969) mother–infant attachment theory provided the theoretical framework for this investigation. Bowlby outlined the reaction to loss of attachment in four stages: it is in Stage 2 (yearning and pining) that feelings of guilt manifest. Miceli and Castelfranchi's (1998) three component model of guilt was used to explore the construct of guilt which can be associated with one's behavior, with responsibility for one's actions, and with the consequences of that action.

Findings indicated that feelings of guilt, for some of these migrant participants, were intense and long lasting. Guilt resulted from, firstly, leaving parents in the homeland, secondly, being the only daughter or the only child and leaving parents in the homeland, and thirdly, making the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren vulnerable as a consequence of migration. Results from the study shows that guilt is a powerful emotion that impacts on the well-being of migrant women and, through them, on their families. The results also indicate that guilt, on the part of both men and women deserves more in-depth inquiry to detail the psychological impact on migrants.


guilt, Bowlby, migration, women

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