April 11, 2007
Becoming American and American Culture
Outside Reading Report
Societies and cultures around the world are shaped around individuocentric and
sociocentric values. Individuocentrism, a concept that teaches people to see themselves as
individuals, and sociocentrism, a concept that teaches people to identify with his or her
culture (i.e. something that is larger than himself or herself) combine to define societies;
however, no society is dominated completely by one or the other. For the Khmer youth,
as described in Nancy Smith-Hefner’s
, and Yemeni Americans, as
described in Loukia K. Sarroub’s
All American Yemeni Girls
, elements of
individuocentrism and sociocentrism alike are represented in their lives. The Khmer
youth strive to find a balance between encouraging the individual and honoring their
family values, while the Yemeni girls attempt
to unite the life they want to live at school
with the life they have to live at home.
The elements of individuocentrism and
sociocentrism must be combined and balanced with the intent of immersing oneself in
America’s culture with the ultimate goal of truly becoming an American.
The socialization practices employed by Khmer Americans in the early stages of
childrearing are very individuocentric. In contrast to the typical overbearing manner in
which Westerners raise their children, “parents thus focus on the infant not as an utterly
new and natural being but as a preexisting social individual who brings from past lives
inherent traits and abilities” (Smith-Hefner 64). Khmer parents carefully observe their
children in order to support the child’s own unique form of development without
imposing their own rules and ideas. Their children, they believe, were born from past
lives and already have a predetermined way of growing and developing that should not be
upset. The way in which Khmer mothers decide to raise their children is also
individuocentric. Instead of trying to fit the child into a predetermined schedule, like
many Americans do, the Khmer mother will create a schedule based on the child’s needs.
The child is free to want anything without having any restrictions or time limits.
children have reached a certain age, though, individuocentric tendencies become
It is at this time that a child becomes aware of his or her surroundings and
begins to understand that he or she is part of something larger than him or herself. Khmer
parents now expect this child to abide by the rules of the community and to act
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