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The documentary film, ‘Daughter from Danang’ explores the story of Heidi Bub, an American woman brought to America from Vietnam during the ‘Operation Baby lift’ in 1975. Despite that Heidi is given the opportunity to spend the rest of her life as an American citizen through adoption, she cannot bring herself to identify with her adoptive mother who mistreats her leading to their estrangement. This separation leads Heidi into tracing her roots back in Vietnam where contrary to her expectations, her biological mother and the family in general turns out to be much worse than her mother back in America. Heidi decides to return to America prematurely, and despite that her Vietnamese family stays in contact with her, she is not ready to identify with them because they are so demanding. This report highlights two major psychological concepts namely; socialization and stereotyping as captured in the movie.
Socialization is a major psychological concept entailing the process through which individuals in a particular society become members of a given culture in terms of assuming the values, beliefs, behaviors, and norms acceptable by the larger population. Therefore, through socialization children become exposed to specific skills and attitudes perceived to play a significant role in helping them to transition from one stage of lifespan development to another (Mayer, 2004, p. xiii). Accordingly, parents, teachers, and other members of a given cultural or social group are the major agents of socialization. Here, the agents of socialization are expected to teach the children about their language, occupational/gender roles, and cultural norms/values. For instance, in the movie, ‘Daughter from Danang’, Heidi’s adoptive mother plays a major role in terms of showing her the need to forego her Vietnamese culture in order to fit into the American way of life.
On the other hand, socialization plays a major role in the formation of different personalities in the society. Here, it is important to note that genes in part are the major contributors of one’s personality. However, studies have shown that the process of socialization underlies personality formation in such a way that it encourages individuals to adopt certain beliefs and attitudes that fit into a given culture (Mayer, 2004, p. 1; Jost & Banaji, 1994).
For example, the parenting style in the United States is in most cases referred to as authoritative, and its positive benefit is that it dictates children’s outcomes in different aspects of life. Unfortunately, the authoritative nature of Heidi’s adoptive mother does not sit well with Heidi’s attitude, and thus, they end up separating. Furthermore, from the movie, it is apparent that there are important differences in socialization between American and Vietnamese societies particularly in terms of the significance of family re-union in the two groups. As it can be illustrated from Heidi’s behavior when she visited her family in Vietnam, a family re-union in America is characterized by people getting together to share gifts and happiness without anyone encroaching into another person’s private life in the presence of other members.
On the contrary, in Vietnam, a family re-union can be anything from part of the family expecting gifts and financial aid from well off family members to other family members expecting to hold on to their long lost family members including sleeping by their side without observing the need for one’s privacy. These differential experiences can cause a culture shock as illustrated in the movie. Perhaps, the differences in socialization styles can be attributed to the existence of different socialization techniques in different parts of the world.
In most cultures, the early stages of socialization occur through informal education followed by formal education, which begins somewhere between the age of 3-5 years in most societies. Therefore, it is important to note that even the most insignificant aspects of the culture do play a major role in shaping socialization and subsequently, an individual’s personality.
Another important psychological concept captured in the movie is stereotyping. In simple terms, stereotypes are referred to as generalized assumptions about a given group, which is thought to possess a certain trait. In many instances, stereotypes are either positive or negative on one hand, and true or false on the other hand. Further, research studies entailing stereotypes and memory have shown that stereotypical information is bound to be held by people over a long period as opposed to non-stereotypical information (Bar-Tal & Teichman, 2005).
Consequently, it is highly probable that stereotypical information will be transferred from one individual to another or may be handed down from one generation to another. From the movie, it is notable that Heidi is forced to forego her Vietnamese cultural attributes in order to fit into the American society because most Americans see other people’s cultures to be inferior to their own. Conversely, most Vietnamese poor families regard anyone arriving from America as a tourist loaded with lots of cash to give away. This misconception of the Vietnamese people against the Americans prevents them from accepting Heidi as one of their own simply because she has spent a considerable amount of her life in America.
According to Bar-Tal and Teichman (2005, p. 22), such stereotypes can also be referred to as psychological intergroup repertoires in which group members hold certain views of other groups, and thus, these repertoires tend to determine the development of relationships/interactions between members of different groups. Accordingly, the intergroup repertoire determines the nature of interpersonal interactions between members of different groups, and subsequently, influences the behavior of one group in the presence of another.
In most cases, the intergroup repertoires have been implicated in the development of negative behaviors observed between Americans and people from other continents especially Arabs, and eventually leading to intergroup exploitation, genocide, and discrimination. Overall, it is important for one cultural group to respect the behaviors, values and beliefs of other groups to allow for peaceful co-existence in the world.
Bar-Tal, D., & Teichman, Y. (2005). Stereotypes and prejudice in conflict: Representations of Arabs in Israel Jewish Society. New York: Cambridge University Press. Web.
Jost, J.T., & Banaji, M.R. (1994). The role of stereotyping in system-justification and the production of false consciousness. The British Journal of Social Psychology, 33(1), 1-27. Web.
Mayer, P. (2004). Socialization: The approach from social anthropology. London: Routledge. Web.