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Latin America


The culture of poverty and the rejection by men of children not their own provides the context and tragic results of machismo. In fact, it may be that it is poverty that is breaking down the personal dignity necessary for traditional familism and replacing it with the excesses of machismo. Some evidence, however, suggests movement toward what Western clinicians would describe as a more functional or healthy family.

A survey of seventy-one married women in Panama (Stinnett; Knaub; O'Neal; and Walters 1983) revealed fairly egalitarian beliefs concerning marriage. Large majorities believed that women (1) should have an education of equal quality as men; (2) should receive equal pay for equal work; (3) are just as intelligent as men; (4) are just as capable of making important decisions as are men; and (5) should express their opinions even if their husbands do not ask for them, and should voice their disagreements with their husbands.

At the same time, most agreed that the husband is the head of the family, that the wife must obey her husband, and that the woman's place is in the home (even though 77% of the sample worked outside the home). This indicates a separate but equal attitude compatible with the familism construct.

Finally, Hispanic families that rate themselves as strong and in which couples are highly satisfied with their marriages emphasize that psychological factors—love and companionship—take precedence. Data collected from nine Latin American countries using Stinnett's Family Strengths Inventory yielded results that were virtually identical to studies conducted in the United States (Casas et al. 1984).

The most important factors for maintaining a happy family life were:

  1. love and affection;
  2. family togetherness;
  3. understanding and acceptance;
  4. mutual respect and appreciation;
  5. communication and relationship skills;
  6. religion.

Wives emphasized love and affection more than husbands did, and husbands were more likely than wives to mention the importance of religion.

Evidence also shows that a growing number of Latin American families value love and affection in the husband-wife and parent-child relationships more than they do the traditional authoritysubmissiveness approach. All of this bodes well for familism, which not only avoids the abuses of patriarchy, but also makes it more likely that Latin American families will not suffer the disengagement, in which individualism is more important than family, common in the West.


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Additional topics

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