A longitudinal study exploring the experiences and wellbeing of internationally mobile families moving to a new country and international school
: Perspectives of children, parents and professionals

  • Catherine Mary Koini

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Existing literature presents a fragmented, retrospective and negative account of international family transition, frequently employing terms such as ‘grief’ and ‘anxiety’. This longitudinal study seeks to explore the contemporaneous experiences of internationally mobile families during their transitions to a new country and international school. The study draws upon the psychosocial theories of Multiple and Multi-dimensional Transitions (MMT) Theory and Self-Determination Theory as the underpinning theoretical frameworks. The aims of the study are to explore: the transition experiences and adaptation of internationally mobile families, the impact of transitions on family wellbeing, the facilitators and inhibitors of successful transitions and professionals’ perspectives of international transitions.

    The study adopted a small-scale, multiple case study design and focused on the experiences of primary aged children, parents and professionals over the period of one year between July 2019 to July 2020. Methods employed included semi-structured interviews with parents, mosaic approach (observations, child conferencing, drawings, photos and puppets) with children and a questionnaire for professionals. Applying an interpretivist approach, data were coded and analysed thematically. The findings revealed that participants navigated multiple complex transitions across several domains on a daily basis. Participants demonstrated largely positive transition experiences and family wellbeing improved over time. The role of the school and family were identified as key pillars in facilitating successful transitions. Implications were identified for research, policy and practice, including the need to shift the underlying negative discourse surrounding international transitions and for international schools to provide children with earlier forms of familiarisation to support their transitions. It raises important questions regarding the relevance of culture to internationally mobile families and whether these families experience ‘loss’ in transition. This PhD is highly relevant as it offers a new understanding about globally mobile families’ self-determination, resilience and adaptation ability. This thesis challenges previous chronological models of international transition and demonstrates that through the application of MMT theory, international family transition is best understood as an ongoing, complex, and multi-dimensional process. It is a relevant piece of research which presents the views of all stakeholders in international transition, currently not represented in the academic literature.
    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDivya Jindal-Snape (Supervisor) & Anna Robb (Supervisor)


    • International schools
    • family wellbeing
    • resilience
    • children's voice
    • culture
    • self-determination
    • identity
    • MMT theory

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