Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Relationship between Obligation to Parents and Life Satisfaction for Vietnamese American Adults

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Relationship between Obligation to Parents and Life Satisfaction for Vietnamese American Adults

Article excerpt


This paper presents an analysis employing the quantitative research method to study Vietnamese adult children's obligation to parents. Using primary data gathered from 95 Vietnamese American adults, this study examines the relationship between obligation to parents and life satisfaction of Vietnamese American adults. The findings indicate that obligations to parents have been adapted among the Vietnamese American adults in the sample. Different patterns of change in obligation to parents among the Vietnamese American adults are recognized. Vietnamese American adults are experiencing social, economic, and cultural challenges associated with a new life in the United States but they are struggling in ways that did not significantly alter their traditional familial obligations. The findings also demonstrate a very high level of satisfaction for the sampled Vietnamese Americans who have been Acculturalized/Americanized for about fifteen years.

Keywords: life satisfaction, Vietnamese adult children, family obligation

1. Introduction

The Vietnamese family has been deeply influenced by Confucius. The power of this doctrine has been incorporated into the lives of the Vietnamese people for a long period of time. It has had a profound impact on the development of the Vietnamese codes of behavior that include reverence for ancestors, respect for the elderly and obligation to parents. Due to recent mass exodus of Vietnamese refugees into the United States after 1975, the Vietnamese families are assimilating into the Western culture, embracing the ideology of individualism, and together with the economic challenge, the traditional families ties are being jeopardized.

Adult children have an obligation to their parents is a fundamental value of Confucianism. Confucianism has emphasized the family's role as the root of stability and it was incumbent on the Vietnamese people to live with such virtues as benevolence, obedience, righteousness, loyalty, and obligation to parents. The principle of "Obligation to Parents" has guided the behaviors and attitudes of the Vietnamese descendants regarding relationships within the family. However, due to recent immigration to the United States by the Vietnamese people, Americanization/Acculturalization may drastically change this fundamental value and as a result, may also affect their life satisfaction. Therefore, there is a need to focus on the relationship between the adult children obligation to their parents and the level of life satisfaction of the aging Vietnamese Americans.

The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between obligations to parents and life satisfaction of older Vietnamese American adults. According to statistics, more than 40% of the California's current baby boomers are African American, Latino, or Asians, and one third were born outside of the country. By 2040, the majority of California's older adults are projected to be from groups now considered to be ethnic minorities. California's Asian American population is also comparatively large, accounting for about 12% of the state's population (Lee, Miller, & Edwards, 2003).

1.1 Historical Background

Over 1,000,000 Vietnamese immigrants have migrated to America since 1975, when the Communists gained control of South Vietnam. This population represents the second largest group of refugees in United States history (Gordon, 1989). During the difficult assimilation into American life most Vietnamese adapted not as isolated individuals but as members of families (Hem, 1995). These families have weathered economic difficulty, discrimination, and cultural shock, and faced challenges to traditional Confucian ideology, which lies at the heart of their culture. Vietnamese immigrants were affected by the migration process which reshaped their roles within the family and society.

1.2 Vietnamese Migration

The Communist victory over South Vietnam in the spring of 1975 created a critical refugee situation. …

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