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Latin America


Familism places the family ahead of individual interests and development. It includes many responsibilities and obligations to immediate family members and other kin, including godparents. Extended family often live in close proximity to each other, with many often sharing the same dwelling. It is common for adult children to supplement their parents' income. In many ways, the Hispanic family helps and supports its members to a degree far beyond that found in individualistically oriented Anglo families (Ingoldsby 1991b).

William M. Kephart and Davor Jedlicka (1991) claim that a large majority of Mexican-American young people comply with parental rules in the following areas: (1) dating and marriage within their ethnic and religious group; (2) having parental approval and some supervision of dating; and (3) complete abstinence from sexual intercourse before marriage. American-born Hispanics are less likely to insist on the tradition of chaperoning their daughters on their dates, and it is not known how well the children adhere to the no sex rule. Nevertheless, the research findings paint a very positive picture of Latin American family life that includes lower mental illness and divorce rates, greater personal happiness, and a secure feeling about aging.

Studies support this picture of Latin America being less individualistic than is the United States. In ranking the characteristics of an ideal person of the opposite sex, adolescents from the United States gave higher rankings to such traits as having money and being fun, popular, and sexy. Teens from Mexico and Guatemala were more collectivistic in citing many of the above traits to be unimportant and preferring someone who is honest, kind, and helpful and someone who likes children (Stiles et al. 1990; Gibbons et al. 1996).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsLatin America - Familism, Machismo, Street Children, Family Violence, Conclusion