Seeking balance between the past and the present: Vietnamese refugee parenting practices and adolescent well-being

Int J Intercult Relat. 2012 Jul 1;36(4):563-574. doi: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2012.03.004. Epub 2012 Apr 4.


This qualitative study examines the resources that Vietnamese refugee parents use in raising their adolescent youth in exile and how they, and their adolescents, regard their experiences of different parenting styles. The study is based on 55 semi-structured interviews and several focus groups performed with a small sample of Vietnamese refugee parents and their adolescent children. Three main themes from the interviews were identified: the role of the extended family and siblings in bringing up children; language acquisition and cultural continuity and, finally, religion and social support. Our findings suggest extended kin are involved in the raising of adolescent children, providing additional family ties and support. Parents regarded Vietnamese language acquisition by their youth as facilitating both communication with extended kin and cultural transmission. Several parents stressed the importance of religious community to socialising and creating a sense of belonging for their youth. Vietnamese refugee parents seek a balance between Vietnamese values and their close extended family social networks, and the opportunities in Norway to develop autonomy in pursuit of educational and economic goals. Together these parenting practices constituted a mobilization of resources in support of their youth. These findings may have important implications for future research on resiliency and the role of these strategies as protective factors mediating mental health outcomes. They may also have implications for treatment, in terms of the types of resources treatment can access and for prevention strategies that maximize key cultural resources for Vietnamese refugee youth.