The majority of developmental theories say that children must develop a secure primary attachment in order to develop in a healthy manner. A secure and strong attachment is clearly essential for healthy future relationships. John Bowlby’s studies in childhood development led him to the conclusion that a strong attachment to a caregiver provides a necessary sense of security and foundation. Without such a relationship in place, Bowlby found that a great deal of developmental energy is expended in the search for stability and security. In general, those without such attachments are fearful and are less willing to seek out and learn from new experiences (Hutchison, 2013). The video did portray a close relationship between Heidi’s siblings and their mother. Heidi says she has happy memories from her child hood growing up in Vietnam (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). This leads me to believe she had formed an attachment with her mother. Bowlby says if the attachment figure is broken or disrupted during a child’s critical developmental stage the child will suffer irreversible long- term damage. Heidi was completely uprooted toward the end of this critical period (Hutchison, 2013). She was 6 years old when her mother dropped her off at the orphanage operated by the Holt Adoption Agency.
This is traumatic, and she says how she used to cry for her mother. She said she believed there was something wrong with her and that is why she was sent away (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). Once in America Heidi was adopted by a single woman named Ann Neville. Heidi describes Ann as a cold, non – loving person. She provided material things but never any affection. One summer evening while Heidi was home from college, she came home one night to find herself locked out. When she returned the next day her mother had Heidi’s bags packed and said she was no longer welcome in her house. As far as Ann was concerned, she no longer had a daughter. Heidi has not spoken to her adopted mother since (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). This was the second time Heidi had been abandoned by her mother figure. According to Erik Erikson’s stages of Psychosocial Development she would not make it past the 1st stage (Hutchison, 2013).
Although Heidi is well over the age the trust vs. mistrust stage occurs, she still is unable to believe that either one of her mothers’ love her. After visiting Vietnam, she is quite sure it was not love driving her mother to show such affection, but rather financial reasons (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). Her family is poor and they see Heidi as an escape from poverty. Heidi’s adaption to her American life is an example of a component in Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Theory called accommodation. Children are motivated to maintain a balance. Any experience that we cannot assimilate creates anxiety, but if our schemata are adjusted to accommodate the new experience, the desired state of equilibrium will be restored (Hutchison, 2013). In order for Heidi to adapt to her environment, she had to change the way she viewed everything. She was unable to change the environment so she had to change herself. Heidi became 101% Americanized (Dolgin & Franco, 2002).
This documentary reveals the many confrontations of two cultures. It begins when an American soldier and a Vietnamese woman, Mai Thi Kim, who was abandoned by her husband, ensue a sexual relationship that results in a daughter, Mai Thi Heip also known as Heidi Bub. When the war ends and the American troops leave, Mai Thi Kim and her children are left to face the ridicule and scorn for Kim’s indiscretion of sleeping with an American soldier (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). This child was born half American and half Vietnamese. At the time there were rumors the Communist government was going to search for these children and kill them. They were a part of the enemy. In order to escape this persecution, the American government, along with several others governments, created Operation Baby Lift. They would put these children on planes and fly them to the United State where they would be given the opportunity for a better life. This is extremely telling of North American’s ethnocentrism, assuming Americans could provide a better life to these children than their own parents (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). In America Heidi lived with her adopted mom in Pulaski, Tennessee. Ann was a dean at Pulaski’s Martin Methodist College. Heidi was baptized into the United Methodist Church, where she attended services, and Sunday school.
Ann provided many material things for Heidi, taking her on great trips to various places and yet Heidi’s heart still longs for more. Heidi said she had everything growing up, but that she didn’t have a very loving mother. Ann sought hard to Americanize Heidi and often warned her to keep her Vietnamese heritage a secret. Ann is extremely adamant that if anyone asks where Heidi was born, she is to tell them Columbia, South Carolina (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). As Heidi enters her teenage years her relationship with her mother is strained. Anne cannot tolerate Heidi’s growing independence. The relationship comes to an abrupt end when Ann kick Heidi out of the house and denies she ever had a daughter (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). Heidi’s biological mother does not have the money to provide material things like her adopted mother. She does have the capacity to love Heidi and expresses it openly, unlike her adopted mother (Dolgin & Franco, 2002).
When Heidi returned to Vietnam to reunite with her family she experienced a dramatic culture shock. She was not properly prepared for the reunion. As a child she was forbidden to inquire about her heritage, so it was never discussed and she was never encouraged to learn about the Vietnam culture (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). Heidi has a naïve idea that it is going to be a fairy tale ending. Heidi places huge expectations upon this visit to emotionally fill a void in her life from an unloving and damaged childhood. One of the major challenges Heidi faces was the dreadful clash between the two cultures. Heidi is overwhelmed by the open and often displays of affection. She says she was not raised in such a touchy, feely society so all of this affection was extremely uncomfortable. Heidi was raised as a single child by a single parent. She is not used to large families and having so many people around all the time. Heidi complains that she has only had 2 hours to herself the entire time she has been in Vietnam. She begins to feel the roles have been reversed because her mother is so clingy. It is as if she is the mother and her mother is the child (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). In Vietnamese culture family is very important.
Extended family often live close or in the same home. In American this is not a common tradition. Generally when the children grow up they move out of their parents’ house to live independently and eventually begin a family of their own. Often families live hundreds of miles apart and may only see each other on holidays or special occasions. Vietnamese live in a collective society where the prosperity of the group is the goal. They are community oriented, they take care of each other. So when Heidi’s sister, who is extremely poor, asks Heidi for more money that is entirely acceptable in their culture. It is normal and even expected for the wealthier family members to take care of the poorer ones. Those who make it to the States or another prosperous nation, are expected to send money back to their family. The children are expected to take care of their parents because the parents took care of the children when they were young (Dolgin & Franco, 2002).
The video displays another example of how Vietnamese have a collective culture when Heidi returns, not only is her entire family excited to reunite, but the entire community is waiting to see her, they never forgot Heidi (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). Heidi thought her sister was rude and she was insulted by her bold request. When Heidi’s brother mentions it is her turn to take care of their mother, Heidi explodes in anger (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). The United States is stigmatized an individualistic society, people tend to look out for themselves. What is theirs is theirs and no obligation to provide for others. This is most often true in urban areas, but in more rural parts, families do take care of their own.
People in smaller communities tend to take care of each other, maybe not to the extent they do in Vietnam, but they do look out for one another. Language is a barrier for Heidi. Although her mother and some of her family members are able to speak English, Heidi does not speak Vietnamese and does not understand the language. It is difficult to communicate and makes interactions challenging (Dolgin & Franco, 2002).
Daughter from Danang originates with American’s ethnocentrism and the declaration of “Operation Babylift.” by President Ford. Many American soldiers had left behind what was referred to as national embarrassment, American soldiers had slept with the enemy and fathered children with the women of Vietnam, these children came to be known as Amerasians. It was feared that the Communists threatened to kill both mother and child of this mixed race. President Ford made available over two million dollars for the needs of thousands of children that would be airlifted out of Vietnam to in efforts to avoid mass slaughter of the innocent, and provide a better living for the children (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). The ethnocentrism is clear when the video shows a clip of an American social worker attempting to convince Vietnamese women to send their children to the United States.
The Vietnamese feared the Communists could kill their children and the United States, along with other countries, were taking them away. What an awful experience for the mothers and children. Heidi’s new life in the United States did provide her with opportunities she would have never received otherwise. The United States is a wealthier country than Vietnam. Most Vietnamese live in poverty and have little opportunity to improve financially. Vietnamese do not have the access to education that Westerners have. Heidi is a college graduate and her sister only made it through the 6th grade (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). Vietnam lack many of the modern conveniences Heidi has grown accustomed to.
Vietnam is a poor country, the people cannot afford the common luxuries American’s use in their daily life. When she is walking through the town she is stunned to see people cooking food on the side walk. At the market Heidi cannot get her mother out of there fast enough. The hot temperature, raw fish, and the smells are all too much for her to handle (Dolgin & Franco, 2002). You can see the surprise on her face when she first arrives to her family’s home. The family does not have indoor plumbing, the family must go to the bathroom outside and shower by pouring a bucket of water over themselves. Heidi also observes her mother washing laundry outside in a basin with a bar of soap, the dishes were also washed outside in basin as well (Dolgin & Franco, 2002).
The video portrays though Vietnamese have less materials belongings than Westerners does not mean they are less happy. Vietnamese place much more importance on the family relationships and love for each other. I think if Heidi had prepared herself for her visit by educating herself on the Vietnamese culture, thing would have turned out differently. At least she would not have been taken off guard with so much touching, constant family around, and their forwardness about money. The movie ends with Heidi consciously alienating herself from her cultural roots. She goes back to the familiar world of her adopted grandma’s home, where the most profound conversation is whether the corn is rotten in the refrigerator. She goes back to a dopey husband who has not a clue. “We stopped talking about your (Heidi’s) trip because we were not getting anywhere.” Unfortunately it has been 2 years and Heidi has not responded to any of her families letters. It seems unlikely she ever will. My hope is that she can overcome her scars and teach her children about their heritage. Provide them with the opportunity to learn who they are.
Dolgin, G.(Producer), & Dolgin, G., Franco,V. (Directors). (2002). Daughter from Danang [Video].Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AU VUe2HX0 Hutchison, E. D. (2013). Essentials Of Human Behavior: Integrating Person, Environment, and the Life Cycle. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
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