Mien family is characterized in a hierarchy family structure, where males and older individuals occupy a higher status in the family and in society. Sons are being valued more than daughters due to the fact that they will preserve or carry on the family lineage or tradition. The role of the female is to be passive and to adhere to husbands’ family, be subservient to the male, perform domestic chores, and bear children. The role of the male is to provide for the family. He is the one to face the sun, rain, and win in order to provide and protect his family. Children learn in early life that the family is central and the primary unit behavior of individual members is a reflection on the entire family. This means that the betterment of the family outweighs the individual.
Traditionally, young people were not given freedom in mate selection, especially for girls. Marriage was pre-arranged by the parents on both sides. Unlike in the U.S., the significance of marriage lay not in bringing happiness to individuals through affection nor equality between husband and wife. Likewise, social life is not the based around the “couple” in the traditional Mien society. The Mien society rather is centered around the father-son relationship, whilst the American society, on the other hand, is centered around the husband-wife relationship.
The Mien family system, the continuity of the family through patrilineal succession from father to son was of the outmost importance and to which the husband-wife relationship was secondary. At the same time, the women’s status within the family is traditionally subordinate to that of the men. Since the Mien people began migrating to the U.S. in the mid-1970s, there has been a great deal of change in the status and role of women in the family unit, in society and in the workforce. The major factors affecting this change include: first, the equal opportunity for education in the U.S.; second, employment opportunities for women outside of the family circle due to industrialization; and third, as a result of family planning efforts, Mien women in the U.S. on average marry at an older age and have fewer children. On average, the size of a Mien family in the U.S. has become smaller, exemplified by the general desire for fewer children. At the same time, traditional thinking has evolved to where parents place equal value on both sons and daughters.
Today Mien marriages and families have different sets of social, cultural and religious values that govern their new lives in a new land. They are no longer living under the traditional family norms, values and expectations, but are free to choose whatever lifestyles they desire. Being Mien in America, individuals and families are not only encouraged by the society to make their own choices, but are given different sets of moral, social and family values to choose. There are so many choices to choose from, and in many cases these choices become overwhelmed for the individuals and families. Unfortunately, people who cannot make their own choices shouldn’t worry because society will decide for them. Before they become fully aware of it, the matter may have already been settled.
Mien marriages and families in the U.S. have different sets of challenges and family issues. Their marital and family issues have been broadened to include religious differences, financial problems, child-rearing issues, prolonged unemployment, communication failures, sexual problems, physical and emotional illness, physical and emotional spouse abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse, gambling addiction, dual career problems, issues of power and control, and the loss of love and passion compared to those living in Asian countries. In terms of religion, Mien in Asian countries worship ancestors or practice animism and have limited exposure to Christianity or other religions as those who are in the U.S. There are fewer idealistic conflicts between spouses on religion differences simply because the options weren’t available. Children or family members could not make their own choices to worship any religion they desired. Since religion plays a major part in a person’s life, making a personal choice in conflict with the norm would have to be approved by the family and sometimes by the whole clan.
As many Mien people are now living in the U.S., they have become educated in many social and academic arenas, and have begun to study and question their traditional family values and norms. While some still preserve the traditional cultural behaviors and patterns, others have assimilated completely into the fast-paced Western society and have very little interest in Mien history or tradition.