This is where children are socialised to societal norms and values through intra- and inter-family interactions. The family’s position and role in the social structure provides a point of reference from which a nation’s social system – networks, relationships, and values – can be understood.
Whilst modernisation may tend to diminish the family’s role, notably in a nation that is changing fast such as Vietnam, this paper looks at the nature of social relationships in a Vietnamese family to gain a deeper understanding of its key characteristics and provide insights on the consequences of the social and economic changes taking place.
Indispensable to this study is a knowledge of the values and influences that helped shape the form of the Vietnamese family through the centuries. Its geography as a nation at the crossroads of Indochina, to the east of India and south of China, has opened it to these two cultures. Its long eastern coastline likewise opened it to a Western wave of Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French colonisation beginning in the 17th century. These conquests and occupations shaped present Vietnamese society into a complex mixture of East and West.
The predominant religions in Vietnam are Buddhism from India and Confucianism and Taoism, both from China. Although Confucianism is more a code of behaviour than a religion, its combination with the other two explains to a great extent the evolution and development of the Vietnamese family to its present form. The influence of Catholicism coming from the more recent wave of western explorers has not been substantial, except for the Vietnamese alphabet which a French missionary transformed from Chinese characters to a system that uses the Roman alphabet (Luong, 1989). The significance of this quirk of history is that it keeps the country open to the outside world.
Buddhism teaches enlightenment, the quest for perfection, and the value of