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Home› Cultures› Puerto Rico› Cultural Differences› Family Structures

Family Structures

Traditionally, Puerto Rican women are expected to marry at a young age and have many children. “The urban mainland Puerto Rican population reflects the culture of the island but is also influenced by poverty. This may be reflected in high rates of female-headed households and male joblessness” (Giammanco & Bartolomei, date, page ?).

The Taino, Spanish, and African cultures have influenced the Puerto Rican family structure. In addition, economic changes associated with migration to the U.S. have had an effect on the Puerto Rican family structure. Many families have had to adapt to their environment in the United States as they deal with poverty and violence.

Puerto Rican Culture American Majority Culture
Family is the foundation of the Puerto Rican social structure. The word ”familismo” is a Puerto Rican word that means close family connections, and it emphasizes the concern for the well being of the family.
Friends and peer-aged acquaintances are often seen as the foundation of U.S. social structure.

Communications by telephone, as well as visits among families, are signs of being caring and are strongly encouraged and valued.

Communication by telephone is common, but family visits are often reserved for holidays and special occasions.
“Interactions between family members and others are expected to be courteous, honorable and considerate” (Giammanco & Bartolomei, date, page ?). Interactions among family members reflect the independence that is expected and highly valued among individuals in this culture.
Family honor is of primary importance to Puerto Ricans, and they value an extended family, or modified extended family, which is the basic support system for first- and second-generation families in the U.S. (e.g.: cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, godparents (padrino/madrina), and close friends. The family unit is very diverse but, generally, it tends to be small and nuclear.
Individual achievement is not considered as valuable as family loyalty. Individual achievement is highly valued.

It is quite common to find three generations living under the same roof.

Married couples tend to live in a house or apartment near their parents.

Family members such as the grandparents, parents, married children and other relatives may live in different parts of the country.
Children are brought up as an integral part of the family unit. “Each [family] member has interdependent responsibilities, which validate their position in the family” (Giammanco & Bartolomei, date, p.?). Children are not expected to contribute to the welfare of the whole family.
“Children are valued as the poor man’s wealth, the caretakers of the old, and a symbol of fertility” (Rivera-Schoendorf, n.d. p.4). Quite often parents, especially mothers, make sacrifices for their children. Children have separate activities from the adults.
Adult children are generally expected to live at home until marriage. Adult children are encouraged to leave the nuclear family and become independent before marriage.
Interpersonal relationships are important. Individualism is encouraged. Self-reliance and independence is encouraged.
Family, kinship, and friendship play a major role in both social and business interactions. Merit is of greater importance than interpersonal relationships in business interactions.
Placing elderly relatives in nursing facilities is unusual. Grandparents usually live with their children and may participate in community activities for the elderly. It is common practice to place frail elderly relatives in nursing facilities.
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