Do South Asian Families Expect Unjust Emotional Labour From Children?

Do South Asian Families Expect Unjust Emotional Labour From Children?

One can notice how communities across South Asia are rooted in the notion of family and how we share a deep sense of belonging with our kin. While similar systems previously existed in the west, they are not the centre of their societal structures anymore. On the contrary, we have continued to foster our intergenerational relationships with all its advantages and baggage. 

There is something to be said about the emotional exchange in these equations that hinges on a sense of ‘duty’; while at other times can also be unconsciously expected. Many times this labour of love and care can take an unhealthy form, which is where the multidimensional aspect of ‘intergenerational trauma’ comes into the picture. 

Within South Asian families this experience is multi-layered as unique communities partake in the cycle through their ascribed identities. As ‘Feminism in India’ described how the Dalit trauma, oppression and discrimination experienced by members of the community have left a haunting imprint on the psyches of the people. In other cases of partition or riot survivors, their tumultuous past became allegories of resilience and survival transferred to future generations. 

However, the realities of intergenerational trauma persist in many sinister forms today and are often celebrated under the disguise of tradition. As discussed before these are viewed or demanded as a form of ‘duty’ on the child’s part. Psychologists deem them as ‘adultified’ children who provide extensive caregiving to parents or even younger siblings and struggle to cope with the burden of greater responsibility.

Online discourse around this phenomenon showcases how this trauma exchange primarily burdens older daughters due to connotations of emotional caregiving with the female gender. Women of South Asian descent are sharing their lived experiences on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok; further amplifying the evils behind such expectations and repercussions of the same following them in their adult life. 

It has been studied how this kind of emotional heavy lifting can be disadvantageous in a child's formative development and cause major attachment issues in the future. A codependent parent can often cover this behaviour under the claim of a close relationship and continue to overshare mature information resulting in a continuous cycle of abuse

This type of unhealthy family system is so prevalent in the region that they are widely celebrated and promoted through our film and music. As they fail to notice the dysfunction and continue to propagate a similar equation for future generations to follow. However we must understand that while much of culture is based on truly impeccable qualities, the weeds of hurt and resentment must be removed through rethinking our parent-child relationships. 

It begins with us, because while our ancestors did not have the right resources to cope with their realities, the current generation can become better equipped with the situation. In a community effort we can hope to break the unhealthy cycle and review our cultural perspective on relationships through a radical gaze. 

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