Hmong Mothers and Daughters: Cultural Adjustment and Conflict

Today young Hmong women growing in the United States face a future that is very different from the one for which their mothers were prepared while growing up in the mountains of Laos. As these mothers struggle to rear their daughters in the cultural milieu of the United States, there is conflict and pain on both sides. The daughters of today live in a complex large-scale society where a communicative and active style is often called for. They are being reared by mothers whose backgrounds were in small-scale, slash and burn agricultural societies; where silence and passivity were paramount in the old tradition. The societal roles of both Hmong mothers and daughters have changed. These changing roles often result in conflict and misunderstanding between mother and daughter. The intensity and frequency of these conflicts are dependent upon the differing rates of adaptation and acculturation to U.S.cultural values and lifestyle. This research seeks to identify and discuss significant factors which contribute to conflicts which arise between Hmong mothers and their teenage daughters living in Merced, California as acculturation takes place in the United States. This study seeks to explore these relationships and provide a context for understanding the conflicts and misunderstandings which arise as the daughters enter adolescence. Questions were developed to gather information about the informants' backgrounds, families, mother-daughter relationship, the identification of potential problems, levels of education, and comparison of life style between the United States and Laos. The Hmong history, traditional culture and the Hmong cultural adaptation to life in the United States form the background of this study. These may provide insights and possible answers to identify conflicts between mothers and daughters as Hmong women integrate into American society. This study focuses on the disagreements between Hmong mothers and daughters regarding issues associated with schooling, extra-curricular activities, dating, and responsibilities in the home. The nature of these conflicts has a direct impact on both the mothers' and daughters' levels of education and sophistication as well as the familiarity with the "new culture," language, and educational system in which they now operate.