Caught Between Cultures: Hmong Parents in America's Sibling Society
Kaiser, Tamara L.
Hmong Studies Journal 5 , 2004-05
Focuses on Hmong parents and children caught between traditional, sometimes hierarchical Hmong values and aspects of American culture that celebrate freedom and equality. Study results revealed that a rejection of hierarchy compromises the ability of many Hmong to be effective parents. The study's findings have important implications for those who work with Hmong youth and families, among them that: (1) it is both ineffective and potentially destructive to expect Hmong families simply to assimilate; and (2) while some changes are positive, such as educating the Hmong community about customs that are detrimental to women and children, some changes are quite negative, such as challenges to family values that result in children being attracted to gangs. In traditional Hmong society, leaders do not inherit their power; rather they earn their status and authority. This notion of hierarchy acknowledges that adults know more than children and are responsible for their care, that children have much to learn from those who came before them, and that being adult imbues responsibility for the care and preservation of the larger community. A culture based on non-hierarchical sibling-like relationships may jeopardize the well-being not only of Hmong families but of society as a whole.