Department of Psychology
University of Michigan
"Super Amma": Idealized Representations of Tamil Motherhood Among
Tamil Immigrant Women
(w/ Ram Mahalingam)
As a stereotype, model minority not only provides a positive view of Asians as a group which one is proud of but also sets expectations and standards which group members strive to meet. For women in particular, the expectations can create complex dilemmas: to be hard working and successful employees, to be "good," family oriented moms as well as inculcating these values in their children. Gender plays a particularly important role in the organizing immigrant Tamil women's lives and family relationships. While families begin their adaptation to the immigration context as a unit, over time, men seem to turn increasingly to the work domain while women’s experiences are not restricted to any one domain (Sakamoto, 2006). Secondly, Dion (2006) noted that parents have unique gendered expectation and standards for their children. Parents expect to be closely involved with children's decisions in various spheres. Further girls have greater restrictions than boys (Zhou, 2002). Further, Kurien (1999) documented that Asian Indian Hindu women (many of whom in this particular study were Tamil speaking) were active in creating and establishing religious groups that would aid in the transmission of belief systems valued by the group to its children.
Given this background framework encompassing immigration and gender, this
paper begins by reviewing existing literature on Tamil speaking Asian Indian
women in the United States. Using qualitative interview, this paper explores how
Tamil immigrant women construct the representation of "super amma" and the
complex ways in which they negotiate the pressures of being a "super amma."
Finally, the paper seeks to highlight potential mental health impact of
endorsing, striving to endorse, or rejecting these expectations.
Ms. Balan is a doctoral student whose research interests are cultural psychology of gender and organization, immigration, mental health, and the family. Her publications include, "Culture, son preference and beliefs about masculinity" Mahalingam, R. & Balan, S, Journal of Research on Adolescence (forthcoming), "Cultural psychology of marginality: Exploring the immigrant psychology of Indian diaspora", Mahalingam, R. Phlilip, C., & Balan, S. In R. Mahalingam (Ed.). Cultural psychology of immigrants (2006).