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Coming and Going: A Narrative Inquiry into Women's Stories of a Partner's Interprovincial Labor Migration Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Murray-Arsenault, Christina F
Supervisor and department
Barton, Sylvia (Nursing)
Examining committee member and department
Richter, Solina (Nursing)
Thurston, Wilfreda (Health Sciences, University of Calgary)
Shultz, Lynette (Education)
Ogilvie, Linda (Nursing)
Neis, Barbara (Sociology, Memorial University)
Faculty of Nursing

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Narrative inquiry provides a methodological framework and philosophy to guide the research process, as well as directs the methods that may be used (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). The purpose of this narrative inquiry research was to increase both understanding and awareness of the experiences of four women who were left behind while their partners engaged in temporary labor migration in another Canadian province. The following questions framed this inquiry and were used to elicit stories reflective of the women’s experiences. 1. What stories are women telling about themselves during the experience of being left behind as their partner leaves home for employment in another province? 2. What stories are women constructing in regards to who they are and who they are becoming as they experience a partner’s employment outmigration? Do they include in these stories how they think this is changing other women’s views of themselves? 3. What stories are women constructing regarding their perceptions of health and how they perceive their personal health to be impacted as a result of their husband’s coming and going for employment outmigration? In review of literature, policy, and position statements, I have learned of the emphasis placed on economic development and labor market trends within the Atlantic Region. However, temporary labor migration and the experiences of those left behind have been overlooked. Further lacking is an understanding on how this phenomenon impacts those who are left behind, particularly women who remain behind and care for children. Digitally recorded conversational interviews and photographs provided glimpses into the stories lived, told, relived, and retold by women who were left behind in rural communities and experiencing a partner’s temporary interprovincial labor migration. Women recruited for this inquiry co-participated in 5 or 6 conversational interviews. Each co-participant had experienced the coming and going of their husbands for employment out of province for between 6 and 12 years. Conversational interviews lasted between 1 and 2½ hours. All interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. To gain a deeper understanding of how women experience the coming and going of their husbands due to labor migration, the participants were invited to share personal photographs. These photographs offered a visual representation of the women’s storied lives. Analysis of data occurred through an interpretive process of moving back and forth between field texts, interim research texts, and research texts shaped by questions of meaning and social significance. In shaping field texts into research texts, nine overarching narrative threads emerged and revealed the women’s perceptions regarding identity: who they were, who they were becoming, and how they thought they were perceived by others as they experienced their husband’s inter-provincial labor migration. These narrative threads were organized under the headings: Being—The Married Single Mother, Fulfilling Roles and Responsibilities, and Imagining Networks of Support; Becoming—Family Evolution, Family Reunification, and Importance of Communication; and Belonging—Unsupportive Community Relations, Faithfulness and Commitment to Marriage, and Self Isolation. Alignment of these narrative threads with research and other theoretical works including the Circle of Health PEI’s Health Promotion Framework (Mitchell & Beattie-Huggan, 2006), PEI Department of Health and Social Services and Community Services (2003), and The Quaich Inc. (2011) provided an additional lens to understand how the coming and going of a loved one for labor migration shaped identity construction and perceptions of health for women left behind. This narrative inquiry research contributes to the development of knowledge in the area of temporary labor migration and the experiences of women left behind. To date, this research has been disseminated locally, regional, and internationally. Sharing this inquiry with others has led to an increased understanding and awareness about the phenomenon of temporary interprovincial labor migration and contributes to a greater awareness of the strengths and challenges women who live in rural communities and care for children while their partners are temporarily employed out of province experience. Future dissemination of this research will be shared in various forums in the hope of influencing nursing practice, policy, research, and education.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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