Tran, T. V. (1998). The Vietnamese-American family. In C. H. Mindel, R. W. Habenstein, & R. Wright, Jr. (Eds.) Ethnic families in America (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
This chapter provides a comprehensive review of the Vietnamese family in American society. It focuses on the historical background of Vietnamese society, the traditional family in the context of history and culture, the history of immigration and resettlement, the present-day Vietnamese family in the United States, and the processes of adaptation of the Vietnamese in America.
The teachings of Confucius require children to obey and respect their parents, and children’ piety for their parents is regarded as the most important moral obligation of children while their parents are alive and after they die. They must live with their parents until they are married and have their own house, are expected to contribute to the family economy, but they own nothing. Socialization of Vietnamese children takes place in everyday life situations. Failing to raise a child properly is viewed as the mistake of the father. However society tends to blame the mother for the child’s misconduct or deviant behavior. Older children have more power than younger ones. The eldest son in the family is expected to assume more responsibility in taking care of the family after the death of the father. Young Vietnamese Americans have less opportunity to interact with other young Vietnamese than do young White Americans. Children learn about American culture through American television and frequently are in conflict with their parents over culture. Stonequist developed the concept of the marginal person, which describes the adolescent who cannot make up his or her mind to choose what culture is right for him or her. This person may attempt to assimilate to the host culture but experience rejection from members of the dominant group. “Americanization has involved the absorption of values relating to schooling and work which encourage both individual success and national productivity. But the Americanization of Asian immigrants may have the opposite effect, reducing their exceptionally high level of dedication to learn and work” (p. 278).
Tsai, J. L. (2000). Cultural orientation of Hmong young adults. In N. Choi (Ed.), Psychological aspects of the Asian-American Experience: Diversity within diversity. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.
Most studies of Hmong Americans focus on the cultural adjustment of refugees who arrived in the United States immediately after the Vietnam War. Few studies have examined the cultural adjustment of the children of refugees, who have been raised primarily in the United States. This study explored whether American-born (ABH) and overseas-born Hmong (OBH) young adults differed in levels, models, and meanings of cultural orientation. Fourteen ABH and 32 OBH college students were asked what ‘being Hmong” and “being American” meant to them and completed the General Ethnicity Questionnaire. Both groups reported being more oriented to American culture than Hmong culture. Despite similarities in mean levels of orientation to Hmong and American cultures and in the meanings of “being Hmong” and “being American” ABH and OBH differed in their underlying models of cultural orientation.. For ABH, “being Hmong” and “being American” were unrelated constructs, whereas for OBH, they were negatively correlated constructs.
Estimates of Hmong living in the United States range from 90,000 to 120,000. They did not voluntarily immigrate with the goal of economic advancement but as political refugees. They were originally dispersed throughout the country to curb the impact their arrival had on any one community. Most engaged in secondary migrations to be with family members in other parts of the country.
It is interesting that despite their greater orientation to American culture, they retain a moderate level of orientation to Hmong culture. This study was based on a non-clinical sample of college students, but it may be important to keep this understanding in mind that when planning interventions for treatment. Strategies for foreign born Hmong may need to be different from those for American-born Hmong.
Uba, L. & Chung, R. C. (1991). The relationship between trauma and financial and physical well-being among Cambodians in the United States. The Journal of General Psychology, 118(3), 215-225.
This study focused on the relationship between trauma and financial and physical well-being of Cambodian refugees in the United States. Trauma was defined by three variables: whether or not trauma had been experienced in Cambodia, the number of traumas experienced, and the number of years spent in refugee camps. It was hypothesized that these trauma variables would predict financial and physical well-being among Cambodians in the United States. A discriminant analysis showed significant relationships between the variables and current employment status, and multiple regression analysis showed that trauma predicted income and physical health.
The study examined wider implications of the effects of trauma. It proposed that the effects are not restricted to clinical psychological problems but may also extend to and be manifested in other areas of life in a nonclinical population. Over 40% of a random, nonclinical sample experienced traumas reported that premigration experiences still affect the quality of their lives. Results of the study suggest that traumatic experiences are among the causes of unemployment, low income, and poor health in U.S. Cambodian refugees.
Uehara, E., Morelli, P. T., & Abe-Kim, J. (2000). Somatic complaint and social suffering among Cambodian survivors of the killing fields. In N. Choi (Ed.), Psychological aspects of the Asian-American Experience: Diversity within diversity. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.
Keywords: Cambodians, somatization, mental health, social suffering.
Illness narratives from two Cambodian Killing Fields survivors are used to explore conflicts between professional and lay perspectives on somatic complaints. Professionals see somatic complaints as psychopathology; Cambodian survivors as authentic embodied pain. Survivor perspectives implicate professionals and care systems as causes of suffering. More inquiry is needed to understand survivor perspectives and the role of care systems in exacerbating/alleviating survivor suffering. This paper explores the conflicts and their ramifications through comparisons of survivor and prevailing professional perspectives on somatization.
Upon seizing power in 1975, the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, ordered the closing off of Cambodia from all contact with the world, the forced commitment of its urban population to work camps in the countryside, and the “re-education” of citizens considered dangerous to the regime. Analysts estimate that in the 1975-79 period there were 1.5 million Cambodian men, women, and children killed at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Those who survived experienced starvation, torture, the destruction of homes and towns, the witnessing of mass executions, and the loss of loved ones. Many escaped to refugee camps where conditions were not much better.
Two decades later, many Cambodians who fled the country are experiencing disturbing and disabling conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and chronic stress complaints. Many studies have found Cambodian refugees to be among the Asian American ethnic groups at highest risk for psychological and physical distress. The survivors’ perspective must be made more central in the assessment process. In creating an appropriate model of care, the professional must understand the perspective communicated by survivors.
The findings of this study support other published critiques of professional care systems and raise issues that warrant future analysis. These issues include the professional’s tendency to disparage survivor reports of pain, to pathologize somatic complaints and complaintants, and to exacerbate unwittingly the survivor’s experience of distress and suffering. Currently care systems are organized in such a way where more power and influence is given to the professional. The narratives provided in the study show that the individuals viewed their injuries as moral and social and expected treatments that were moral and social as opposed to medical. The chapter challenges professionals to create new models of healing that restore the power of self-definition and control to the survivor. Professionals need to listen to the presentation of narratives of their patients and become trustworthy listeners. They need to listen to the atrocities without denying the reality of the experience or disparaging the victim. It must also include a political and preventive orientation as well.
Van der Veer, G. (1999). Psychotherapy with traumatized refugees and asylum seekers: Working through traumatic experiences or helping to cope with loneliness. Torture, 9(2), 49-53.
After a brief discussion of the task of the psychotherapist working with traumatized refugees, and of psycho-diagnosis, some stereotypes about psychotherapy with traumatized refugees and asylum seekers were discussed. It was argued that, apart from the after-effects of traumatic experiences, the social position of refugees in Western society is an important source of psychological problems. Implications for the daily work of the psychotherapist was illustrated through a case example.
The article outlines five components of a developmental process. The first is the normal process of development. The second is a process of traumatization that continues while living life in exile. The third is a spontaneous process of recovery and personal growth after traumatization. This may not occur in equal strength with everyone. The fourth is that of uprooting, which does not have a clear end point. The last is a process of equilibration, a concept taken from Piaget. Through equilibration an increasingly complex pattern of connections develops through crises, conflicts, and discoveries. This enables the refugee to take part in the network of a multicultural society.
The article proposes exploration of ways in which refugees could be viewed as less in the position of outsiders and the role that mental health counselors could play in contributing to this equilibration process. It would mean viewing our society as a living organism, which can be characterized in terms of its mental health. The methods a society uses to solve its internal conflicts have a strong influence on the mental functioning of its individual members. A society functions adequately when its members construct organizational forms through which they can provide support for each other. The contract with the professional counselor can be viewed as an introductory contract with the new society in which he is living. The article makes recommendation on how mental health professionals beginning with intake procedures can reduce the isolation and alienation that many refugees experience in contact with Americans.
Werner-Wilson, R. J., & Arbel, O. (2000). Assessment of interpersonal influences on adolescents: The parent and peer influence scale. American Journal of Family Therapy, 28(3), 265-274.
Peer influence is a common topic of interest for parents, clinicians, and researchers, but results from research on the relative importance of parents’ versus peers’ influence on adolescents and young adults has been contradictory. For example, some research suggests that peer attitudes about school influences future academic aspirations, other research suggests that parents and peers differ on their level of influence based on the topic. Other research suggests that peer-oriented children are a product of parental disregard. The Parent and Peer Inventory Scale was developed to provide a reliable and valid measure of the relative strength of parent versus peer influence to enhance research in this area. This article describes the development of this scale.
This scale offers a new tool to assess the degree to which adolescents and youth adults are influenced by their parents or peers. It has high reliability and demonstrates both face and concurrent validity. It has both clinical and research utility because it can be used to evaluate the relationship between delinquency or other problematic behaviors and peer vs. family influence. Clinically, this could provide baseline information to therapists working with adolescents or families to assess the degree of parental influence.
Wong, P., Lai, C. F., Nagasawa, R., & Lin, T. (1998). Asian Americans as model minority: Self-perceptions and perceptions by other racial groups. Sociological Perspectives, 41(1), 95.
For two decades, Asian Americans have been portrayed by the popular press and the media as a successful minority. Asian Americans are believed to enjoy extraordinary achievements in education, occupational upward mobility, rising income, and are problem-free in mental health and crime. Acclamation of Asian Americans as a model minority has become the dominant theme in media portrayal of Asian Americans since the middle 1960s. Most studies reported that both the media and the general public have perceived Asian Americans as a model minority on the basis of their educational attainment. Few studies have directly examined the link between the academic performance of Asian American students and the perception of them as a model minority. This paper examines the image that Asian Americans have of themselves and how other racial groups perceive them. It explores whether such a perception is held by Whites, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Americans themselves. The impact of this perceptions is discussed.
Educators must recognize that the model minority is a myth and discard the stereotype to describe Asian American students. Asian American communities have been concerned that the widely publicized success of some students overshadows the struggle of others. While some are well-established in American society, many others are having a very difficult time, especially recent immigrants. The most serious casualties of this stereotype are Southeast Asian groups and the Pacific Islanders. The study found that Asian Americans are regarded as superior by all racial groups in this sample. Further research is needed to examine the stereotype about Asian American deficiency in their motivation, preparation and skills for administrative and executive positions in academia and other sectors of the American economy.
Ying, Y., Akutsu, P. D., Zhang, X, & Huang, L. N. (1997). Psychological dysfunction in Southeast Asian refugees as mediated by sense of coherence.
Keywords: sense of coherence, Southeast Asian refugees, psychological dysfunction, depression, anxiety, psychosocial dysfunction, trauma, cultural traditionalism.
Investigated Antonovky’s construct of sense of coherence (i.e., and individual’s belief that the world was comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful) as the internal psychological mechanism mediating the effects of external stressors (generalized resistance deficits) and resources on psychological dysfunction (measured by depression, anxiety, and psychosocial dysfunction) in 2,234 Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Hmong, and Chinese-Vietnamese refugees. Generalized resistance and deficits significantly predicted sense of coherence as well as psychological dysfunction. The amount of variance accounted for increased significantly when the mediating effect of sense of coherence was tested using path analysis. Sense of coherence significantly reduced the predictive power of generalized resistance and deficits in the psychological dysfunction models. Results support the hypothesized mediating role of sense of coherence. Thus, interventions aiming to enhance Southeast Asian refugees’ functioning may gain in effectiveness by targeting and promoting their sense of coherence.
The findings support the hypothesis that a sense of coherence serves as a significant mediator of the relationship between resistance deficits and resources on the one hand, and psychological dysfunction on the other. External stressors challenged and weakened the refugees’ ability to comprehend, manage, and make meaning out of their experience, which in turn increased the risk of psychological dysfunction.
Results from the path analysis suggest that men suffered a greater decline in sense of coherence than women, due to their previously held higher position in society and subsequent decline in social position during flight and resettlement. This mediated feelings of depression, anxiety, and psychosocial dysfunction. Those experiencing more trauma had a greater decline in sense of coherence, which mediated greater psychological dysfunction. Cultural traditionalism increased depression, anxiety and psychosocial dysfunction by reducing sense of coherence. It reflected an inflexible clinging to the culture of origin and refusal to explore the new cultural context. This served to keep the refugees separate and marginal from the larger society diminishing their ability to understand, manage, and find meaning. Education and English competence strengthened sense of coherence which diminished risk. Living in a community with a larger coethnic population strengthened one’s sense of coherence by reducing feelings of alienation and marginalization and increasing support and guidance from fellow nationals. This in turn reduced the risk for dysfunction.
The study used a retrospective, cross-sectional design. The role of internal sense of coherence as a mediator needs to be further confirmed in future prospective, longitudinal studies. There was no indication of what the effects of post arrival exposure to stress would have in relation to a sense of coherence since the study focused on war and escape-related trauma.
The study included in the appendix the Cultural Traditionalism Scale and Sense of Coherence Scale.
Zhou, M. & Bankston, C. L. (1998). Growing up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
This book tells the story of America’s single largest group of refugee children as they experience growing up American. These refugees’ children will be the first generation to have grown up on American soil. They assess themselves and others by the standards of other Americans. While these young people launch on a quest for social and economic progress to take them well beyond the lower levels of their immigrant parents, it is not clear whether that quest will succeed. The authors provide answers informed by careful research and offer a new framework that will influence future research.
This study focused on adaptation experiences and outcomes of Vietnamese refugees with the important role refugee children are playing in transforming their group from refugees to American ethnics. Several key aspects have been examined to assemble and analyze data on Vietnamese Americans. The results provide insight into the subtleties and complexity of processes of immigrant adaptation. Economic and social forces affect the neighborhoods but also the schools where students shape one another’s attitudes and expectations. Young Vietnamese tend to go to school in low-income neighborhoods dominated by other minority groups. These schools provide poor learning environments. The frustration of being a member of an oppressed minority group is compounded by the need to maintain self-esteem, so that rejection of middle class mores and opposition to authority become important strategies for psychological survival. Vietnamese parents push their adolescents toward educational success but are at the same time pulled by the oppositional youth culture that surrounds them. This places them in a forced-choice dilemma. If they strive to meet their parents’ expectations for academic achievement, they are likely to be ostracized as “acting White” by peers. If they submit to peer pressure, they are likely to adopt the cultural ways of the underclass. This type of assimilation can cause them to be stigmatized by the community and the larger society resulting in limitation of achievement.
But research has shown that Vietnamese youth have displayed remarkable academic achievement despite low socioeconomic status, low-income neighborhoods, and poor schools. Their measures on standardized tests and grades is above the averages for both black and white students. Rates of college attendance are higher than either group also. Some of their parents speak no English or have low proficiency. Successful adaptation of Vietnamese in poor urban neighborhoods has been determined by distinctive patterns of ethnic social relationships. The ethnic community is a locus of support and control. The family is another large piece in the puzzle of immigrant adaptation. The finding of this study is that these families do not and cannot maintain and pass on cultural values in isolation. They function in wider webs of social relations in the community. It is important to see how these communities have fit into the American society that surrounds them.
Also, the ethnic community expects the younger generation to assimilate into the mainstream culture and to take full part in American society as citizens. Vietnamese youth may be assimilated in different ways that leads to different results. The survey indicated that these young people tend to fall into two categories, those who report little alcohol or drug use and few confrontations with the police, and those who report substantial experiences with the same. Those in the first category tend to do very well while those in the second fare poorly. Despite intergenerational tensions, young Vietnamese who do well understand that an adapted version of the traditional Vietnamese values are actually helpful in their efforts to move upward in society. Vietnamese families promote adaptation to American society, but only selectively. They provide young people with the basic tools to get by or to flourish. Communities also promote adaptation and are helping young people adapt. They can steer young people toward the desirable aspects of Americanization and away from the undesirable aspects. They proposed a theory of ethnic social relations to explain why some Vietnamese young people become underachievers while others succeed beyond expectations. It involves the relationships of these youth to their families, their ethnic community, the local social environment, and the larger American society. The outcomes are based on how they fit into their own families, how their families fit into the local social environment, and how their own communities and local social environment fit into the larger society.