By Matt Kiernan
A family studies professor from Queens College, City University of New York discussed the past and present home life struggle countries in Eastern Europe face.
Dr. Mihaela Robila spoke about roles within eastern European families at a lecture sponsored by the CCSU international studies program.
“The gender roles are pretty traditional, with women working in the home and with the children,” said Robila.
Incorporating social services has been a resource that many government officials and scholars believe would help ease the strain of family life. Instituting family life education into universities, high schools and communities in eastern Europe would provide therapy and counseling.
“There is some stigma on using counseling, so they need to work on that,” said Robila.
High rates of unwanted pregnancy have been an issue in eastern European countries, with a lack of family planning education and contraceptives to prevent them from happening. According to Osmo Kontula in the book, People, Population Change and Policies, teenage pregnancies are four times higher in Romania and three times higher in Estonia, Lithuania and Hungary than in Western Europe.
“Child abandonment is still very high in this region,” said Robila.
The prospect of finding jobs is something that draws parents away from their homes to go to other countries, leaving their children in the care of one parent or other relatives. According to Robila’s book, Eastern European Immigrant Families, 20 percent of 10- to 15-year-olds in Romania have one or more parents working in another country.
Parents working in other countries can cause strain and psychological damage to children because of their need for parents in their lives. Many parents don’t realize the psychological implications from being away from their children for long periods of times and think sending home money is enough for them.
Robila said problems that arise from parents going to other countries, other than family issues, include language barriers for migrant workers, and that can lead to having more difficulty in finding jobs. they are attracted to other countries by the idea of working in stronger economies, higher wages and learning new skills.
An improvement Eastern European countries have made is allowing parents to go on parental leave, which was given to help improve relationships with the parents and their children. A major factor involved in pushing paternity leave was to improve father and child relationships, which is often a problem with mothers usually opting for maternity leave.
Robila said Paid parental leave is offered in countries such as Hungary, giving 70 weeks, Poland 39 weeks and Czech Republic 35 weeks, according to Olivier Thevenon in the book, Vienna Yearbook of Population Research.
Often one spouse will move to more liberal-minded countries such as America, while one will stay in their home country and eventually move with them. Issues can arise in the relationship if the frame of mind of one individual doesn’t adapt to their new surroundings, and the other has an open mind.
Robila teaches courses on family policy, cultural diversity, family therapy and research methods, and recently released her new book, Eastern European Immigrant Families, about the socio-economic and contextual factors impacting children and parents in immigrant families.