FATHERHOOD AND FAMILY FROM A LATINO PERSPERTIVE
A Latino father is a person of Latin-American or Spanish-Speaking descent (Dictionary. Com, 2006) He is a person of Latino-American origin living in the United State or whose family comes from Latin America (Cambridge, Advanced Dictionary). A Latino man can be white/ Caucasian, or black/African American, or Asian or Native American or Pacific Islander. In the United States, the term is an official use in the ethnonym Hispanic, defined as “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American or other Spanish culture of origin regardless of race (Federal data on race and ethnicity, 2008). However, the official use of the term “Hispanics” has its origin in the 1970 general census. So long as the census Bureau attempted to identify all Hispanics by the use of the following criteria in sampled sets so is Spanish speakers and persons belonging to a household where Spanish was spoken are called the Latinos (Campbell, 2002).
Demographic studies on Latino fatherhood and their perception of family and parenting have been studied and documented in Spanish literatures in the past decades. On one hand, contemporary research has not claimed any ambiguity in the identification of Latino man as from Hispanic descent. Studies have shown that Hispanics are less likely to be associated with race and ethnicity because only slightly racial and ethnic diversity occurs in this country. If this is the case, one would conclude that Latino men would even have a sense of hostility towards ethnic humor. Thus the culture of fatherhood is made up of “the norms, values, and beliefs surrounding men’s parenting (LaRossa, 1988). This is no exception with Latino men. The way Latino men behave before wife, children, relatives and people from the same kindred constitute the conduct of men in this culture. In this culture, men marry very early and raise children who will care for them when they are old. This practice make men highly respected because they keep their families in tact. Demographic analysis on the typologies of generative culture sees Latino men as caring fathers, consumed caretakers and good family men (Coltrane, 2001; Gutmann, 2003; Mirande, 1997). Other attributes are influenced by cultural ideologies and demographic analysis (Taylor, 2005). They are also influenced by social construction and moral enrichment that Latino men always bring to bear. In this regard, values are passed onto children as they grow up and as they mature to live independent lives of their own.
Fatherhood in Latino culture can best be studied using Bronfenbrenner’s (1999) ecological theory-the micro system (i.e., parent-child-relationship), the Mezzo system (i.e. work and family), and the Macro system (i.e. cultural beliefs and geographic location). Despite the above ecological study, Mexican Fathers are influenced by their relationship with children, work, environment, and the cultural heritage to which they are considered part of (Bulboz & Sontag, 1993). Part of this heritage is that Latino men are exulted when they have a job and they work hard to establish a home for their own families. Accomplishment of these necessities makes Latino men feel loyal to members of their own family and community. Also, family loyalty, unity and honor as well as family commitment, obligation, and responsibility have always characterized Latino-American families so much so that sacrifices of family member’s own needs or pleasures for the sake of family are often times encouraged, if not expected (McGoldrick, Garcia-Preto, Hines & Lee, 1990). Men are expected to show commitment and sacrifice to wife and children in the family. The projection by Gutmann’s (1996) about Commitment and expectations are conceptualized on the changing concepts of masculinity in Mexican city provides several extended examples of men’s attempt to make meaning of their experiences of fatherhood under difficult local, economic and social conditions. Gutmann pointed out that activities such as work outside home and childcare have become less gendered, that is less associated with either men or women overtime. Gender therefore plays a significant role in influencing fatherhood roles and identity.
Focusing on gender and accomplishment, Taylor (2005) identified two divergent roles Latino fathers play in their families namely: building a house and providing for the household. Summaries and identification of these roles have been characterized by mere egalitarian division of labor. Similar to African way of parenting, Latino men appear to be more involved in the direct care of children as well as other forms of domesticity. They tend to spend quality time with wife and children at home. They welcome friends and relatives to family ceremonies without inhibition. Their constant involvement at home is always a source of emotional pleasure and moral support to family members. These salient realities make effective father involvement in this culture promote healthy child development with later life outcomes (Amato & Rivera, 1999; Flouri & Buchanan, 2004; Lamb, 2004). On the contrary, lack of father’s involvement is responsible for the lots of ills in Mexican family and society (Blankenhorne, 1995; Popenoe, 1996). Similarly, sampled studies have shown that Latino children who are incarcerated or who abuse substance lack father’s involvement in their lives. The same evidence is true of African American families of absent fathers.
According to statistics there are two divergent factors influencing fatherhood involvement in Mexican culture. These two factors are cultural influences particularly gender role ideology and intergenerational influences. Accordingly, the intergenerational transmission of fatherhood skill/value is a process whereby fathers care for their children, find meaning and identity through family relation (Hawkins et al, 1997). In recent times, both factors have remained the most dominant theme that impacted Latino men and their families. More so, intergenerational influence and gender role make effective fathering in Mexico culture strong and rigid. Despite these two factors, men are required to build a house where family would live. They are obligated by tradition to provide a roof for immediate and remote family relations. And the gender of the child as evident in African culture influences the role of fathers in Latino culture. Given these facts, Latino men according to Taylor tend to have gender gap in terms of expectations from sons and daughters. They hardly demand hard labor from daughters, instead they expected them to cook, clean family rooms and help out around the house. In the overall expectation, they seek children’s development and expect growth towards autonomy and independence.
Reaffirming the work of Daly (1995), one would articulate that Mexican fathers embody a gender progressive ideally viewing women as equal to men and having equal aspirations for their sons and daughters. They also encourage their sons at a very young age to learn how best to become men. They teach them how to work hard and how to become responsible children in the community. Sequel to the above, they give women inalienable right to run home and teach children how to be good as well as respect their fathers or elders. When asked of the gender roles of fathers, Carlos Gongalez echoed in these sarcastic words: “I think that the father’s role is very important. I ‘am not saying it is more important than the mother’s but because of my experience, if the father is absent, a void is felt. This void as documented would continue to hurt the family in eternity. Although mothers sometimes fill in the role fathers do, it is not the same.” Comparatively speaking, Latino and African men view their wives essentially as compliment not as replacement to what men can do today. In both cultures wives are seen as collaborators and not financial providers while fathers take up responsibility of care taker who sets family meta rule and show good and enforceable examples. Men in this culture learn to be family caretaker from their own fathers and try to hand over this tradition to the young stars. This practice is identified by some cultural anthropologists as intergenerational parental practice. With respect to intergenerational influences, adult development and fathering style are influenced by the legacies of fatherhood passed down through generations (Pitman, 1993; Popenoe, 1996; Snarey, 1993).
Latino men learn to become fathers and pass these legacies through family ancestry. Children copy good qualities from parents and try to live out those principles. Men on one hand try to hand over the principles of masculinity to their sons while women teach their daughters effective home task and responsibilies. These attributes make Latino men to be viewed as loving husbands. It stands them out from other men from other cultures.
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