Return migration of americans: Personal narratives and psychological perspectives

S. Ben Yehuda-Sternfeld, J. Mirsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This paper addresses return migration, a process whereby emigration from the country of origin to a foreign country is followed by return to the country of origin. Return migration has become a widespread phenomenon, but has been seldom studied from a psychological perspective. The paper focuses on the motivations and experiences of migration and return-migration and attempts to provide a psychological conceptualization of the process. Semi-structured interviews were held in the US with 14 respondents (seven men and seven women), who were born in the US, immigrated to Israel at early adulthood and subsequently returned to the US. The present paper reports the results on 9 of the interviewees. The findings reveal that the respondents chose to immigrate to Israel in search of identity and belonging, and initially idealized their new country. However as time went by, disillusionment and disappointment due to difficulties they encountered gave rise to uncontainable longings for the home country and their families, and they returned to the US. This process of return migration may be conceptualized in the terms of Sussman's cultural identity model (CIM), which suggests that changes in a person's sense of self and shifts in home culture identity characterize cultural transitions. The findings in this study are also discussed via lens of the psychoanalytic perspective of the separation-individuation process, in the context of developmental processes typical to adolescence. And, it is suggested that the presented case of migration is "roots migration" and that the return-migration may be a phase in the psychological process immigrants go through on the way to creating adult and complex identity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-64
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2014


  • Psychological perspectives
  • Return-migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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