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Caught Between Cultures: Hmong Parents in America’s Sibling Society

Keywords: Hmong Americans , Asian American Studies

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Abstract:

Based on a qualitative study of the Hmong Community in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, this paper addresses the conflict between the traditionally hierarchical and patriarchal Hmong culture and those aspects of American culture that elevate freedom and equality over, not only patriarchy, but over hierarchy in general. Although this conflict has forced the Hmong community to change in some positive ways, it also creates great challenges for parents and their children. Distorted values of “freedom” and “equality,” promoted by much of American culture, compromise the ability of many Hmong to be effective parents. A comparison of traditional Hmong parenting with what author Robert Bly calls America’s “sibling society” demonstrates that both Hmong and mainstream families and society are hurt by a general rejection of authority and would greatly benefit from recognizing the value of hierarchy based on experience, genuine accomplishment and wisdom.

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