In the Hispanic community the family unit holds a special place in the culture and in community organization. The Hispanic community is defined as those persons who consider Spanish to be their maternal language, with ancestry that includes Spanish or Latin American roots. The Hispanic culture is not a homogenous group, and it incorporates many manifestations based on country and region of origin and acculturation factors. Mexican American families who have been settled for generation have common threads with, but also distinctions from, for example a new family arrived in Florida from Cuba. The history, politics and other factors may be different. What remains the same is the importance of the family unit across the diverse cultures of the Hispanic or Latino communities.
Hispanic communities are known for the closeness of the family. Research by Kuznesof and Oppenheimer (1985) gave evidence that in Latin America the family has a greater influence on political, social, and economic institutions in comparison with European on non-Hispanic North American counterparts (Kuznesof & Oppenheimer 1985). A study of the literature review on Hispanic families in the late 20th century reveals a long time interest in, and also changing understandings of families outside of the dominant American culture (Vega 1990). All of the various theoretical foundations studies found Hispanic families to have increased familism, which are behaviors supporting family interaction in comparison to non-Hispanic white families.
Studies have shown that the socialization of values occurs while growing in a family, and Latino families have specific values which differ from the average families of the dominant culture. These include the concepts of familismo and personalismo, which both reflect and reinforce the special place of the Latino family in the Latino culture (Cauce & Domenech-Rodraguez 2002, 12). Personalismo describes the ability to get along within the group which is prioritized over individual accomplishment (Ibid.). Familismo describes the collectivist nature of the culture, with a focus on contributing to the extended family through solidarity and obligation, respect for parental authority and closeness (Ibid.).
Latino families are closer than that of the dominant American culture, but there are also closer ties between extended families (Cauce & Domenech-Rodraguez 2002, 13). This closeness within and between Latino families results in a dense network of communication which supports and structures the importance of the family in Latino culture. In addition, Latino families tend to be larger than non-Hispanic counterparts with an average of 3.71 members to the 2.97 of the average White family (Ibid, 9). This further extends the connections of the typical family and reinforces community ties, which further support internal family ties. The closeness and size of Latino families supports a prioritization of regular contact, physical touch and sharing information about “joys and sorrows” which further supports the closeness in the Latino community (Ibid, 13).
There are many benefits to this importance of family in the Hispanic community. This is in contrast to how such families were viewed several decades ago, with many researchers referring to the children of these families as disadvantaged and culturally deprived (Fuller & García Coll 2010). Studies since then have shown quantitative evidence with regard to the benefits of children in Latino families with regard to strengths and resilience that are reinforced by social cohesion and support, and also results in cognitive skills with regard to social participation and motivation to be a good member which provides the structure that reinforces the next generation (Ibid).
The family unit is important in the Hispanic community, as a cultural value and as a means of maintaining cultural values resulting in strengthened support and resilience for members.