Risk- and Protective Factors for Immigrant, Expat, and Intercultural Relationships


  • Joanna C Kraus


Divorce rate, Immigrant couples, Expat couples, Intercultural couples, Risk factors, Protective factors


The divorce rates among immigrant, expat, and
intercultural couples are significantly higher than those of
two native Finns. This study was conducted to explore
possible reasons for this discrepancy. Participants included
11 people who either currently are, or previously were,
involved in a relationship where at least one partner had a
foreign background. Using questionnaires and interviews,
this study assessed both potential risk factors within these
relationships, as well as any protective factors that may
help mitigate these additional relationship stressors.
Analysis showed that there are indeed unique stressors
present in relationships where at least one partner is not
Finnish. Identified factors included difficulty integrating
into life in Finland- especially in finding work, as well as
loneliness, a lack of support, and language difficulties.
Difficulty integrating into Finland as a foreigner was found
especially challenging and stressful. Participants
furthermore identified good, ongoing communication
between partners, certain personality traits, and
integration of the foreign partner(s) as key elements in
overcoming the identified risk factors. Spousal support
also appeared to protect these relationships. Based on the
findings of this study, as well as the respondents’ own
wishes, peer support groups and spouse integration
and/or employment programs would be beneficial in
sustaining immigrant, expat, and intercultural
relationships, leading to a more level playing field with
homogamous couples.