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Ethnic Variation/Ethnicity

Latino Families

Latino families include the Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, and Central America families. The most extensive research relates to Mexican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican families. The background of each of these groups is that of foreign influences in their homelands, first by Europeans, primarily the Spanish, then by the United States.

Mexican families. Traditional Mexican families consist largely of unskilled workers in the low-wage sectors of the economy (Seymour and Stuart 1998). The traditional structure is based on the socioeconomic needs of the agrarian and craft economics of Mexico: an extended, multigenerational group of persons with special ascribed roles. The division of roles and functions, which include mutual support, enables the family to survive during difficult times. The family, in both work and leisure times, is the most important structure in traditional Mexican society (Hoobler and Hoobler 1998).

A popular stereotype concerning the role of the Mexican male was that of machismo. It was often equated with the absolute power of the male—including excessive aggression and sexual prowess—and a secondary role for women. Rafael Ramirez and Rosa Casper (1999) indicate that genuine machismo is characterized by bravery, valor, courage, generosity, and a concern for others. It serves to protect and provide for the family, and includes the use of just authority and a respect for wife and children.

Figures indicate the Mexican family income is low and fertility rates are high. Mexican families are less likely to have extended kin residing in the same household, and the traditional family system is characterized more by voluntary interaction than by the necessity of family survival.

Cuban families. The traditional Cuban nuclear family recognizes the importance of extended family relationships. The tightly knit nuclear family allows for the inclusion of relatives and godparents (padrinos). There is an emphasis on lineal family relations, and it is expected that children show absolute obedience to their parents, and wives to husbands (Perez 2001).

Puerto Rican families. The traditional Puerto Rican family is an extended family, with the primary responsibility for childrearing vested in the nuclear family. Although husbands are the traditional source of family authority, childrearing is the major responsibility of the wives (Steward 1956). Kinship bonds are strong, and interdependence is a major theme among family and kinship members. Co-parenthood (compadrazgo) and the practice of informal adoption of children (hijos de crianza) are two components of extended kinship (Sanchez-Ayendez 1988).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsEthnic Variation/Ethnicity - Origins And Importance Of Ethnicity, African Families, Asian Families, Latino Families, Middle Eastern Families