Latest article: The impact of international family transitions: A systematic literature review of international research


Koini, C. M., Jindal-Snape, D., & Robb, A. J. (2022). Impact of International Family Transitions: A Systematic Literature Review of International Research. International Journal of Educational and Life Transitions, 1(1), 4. DOI:



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The impact of international family transitions: A systematic literature review of international research

The vast majority of literature on international family transitions has long been characterized by the challenges faced by internationally mobile families when moving to a new country. As such, research has frequently presented a negative discourse of international transitions and employed words such as ‘grief’ and ‘loss’ to describe the sadness associated with leaving friends, family and home behind. Alongside the tendency to present transition challenges, the literature has primarily focused on the transition experiences of Third Culture Kids (TCKs), thus excluding the important and interrelated perspectives of significant others. In doing so, a conflicting account of the impact of international transitions on family wellbeing has ensued, with limited discussion of the potential factors which might facilitate successful transitions.

A systematic literature review of international empirical research was therefore conducted to understand the impact of international family transition on families’ experiences, wellbeing and facilitating/inhibiting factors of successful international transitions. We used the Multiple and Multi-dimensional Transitions (MMT) theory as the underpinning theoretical framework. The review covered the period 2000‒2021. Using the EPPI-Centre approach, we included 26 studies in the review that met the inclusion criteria.

The findings suggested that, children and parents experienced international transitions differently. While children were primarily concerned with social issues, parents worried about managing family and work commitments. The findings relating to wellbeing outcomes were mixed, and we cannot say with confidence whether family wellbeing was impacted by international transitions. In addition, there was a dearth of literature examining what constitutes a successful international transition experience.

The main finding of our systematic literature review was that the discourse around international family transitions needs to change at an international level. It is important that at policy and practice level more emphasis is placed on celebrating the positive experiences and wellbeing outcomes for internationally mobile families as this could reduce transition related anxiety for children.

The review also demonstrated the challenge of viewing international transitions in a linear manner and suggests international transitions should be conceptualised as complex, multi-dimensional, dynamic and ongoing in nature. This review is the first to bring together children and parents’ experiences, wellbeing outcomes and facilitating/inhibiting factors using the Multiple and Multi-dimensional Transitions (MMT) theory. As a result, it provides some unique insights and makes an original contribution.

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