Why Are Clear Migrant Definitions and Classifications Important for Research on Violence Against (Im-)Migrant Women?

Nadia Khelaifat, Ali R G Shaw, Gene S Feder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Research on violence against (im)migrant women is emerging, but definitions and classifications of immigrants are not consistent, which makes comparisons within and between countries difficult if not impossible. This is also problematic when studying abused (im)migrant women’s needs and experiences within health care. (Im)migrants are often subsumed under the umbrella term ethnic minorities, ethnic groups, racial minorities, ethnicity or race or these terms are used interchangeably. This is partly due to the countries’ different historic and political migration trajectories. Although there are similarities between migrants and ethnic minorities (e.g. a shared geographical and cultural heritage), there are also considerable differences (e.g. the act of migrating to another country and, as a consequence, the loss of a social network). An important dimension, which is often neglected when studying migrant women, is the age at migration, which is indicative of the migrant generation a woman belongs to and important since it influences how well she can adjust to a new country, language and culture. The direction of flow of migration (e.g. South-North vs. North-North) may show how similar the country of origin is from the country of residence (e.g. linguistic proximity between the U.K. and the U.S.) and the different reasons for migration (e.g. work, war; forced vs. voluntary) often affect the legal status. When distinct migrant groups are subsumed and are then compared either with each other, other migrant groups or with non-migrants, this has limitations since it masks heterogeneity. Moreover, domestic violence, being one form of gender violence, needs a broader scope to capture the domestic violence experience of (im)migrant women (e.g. violence committed by extended family members). The following article argues for careful definitions, operalisations, and usage of “migration” and “domestic violence” when conducting research on violence against im(migrant) women to make comparison possible and meaningful.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalArts and Social Sciences Journal
Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2014


  • Migrant women, domestic violence, definitions, classification


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