As of July 2007, Hispanics comprised approximately fifteen percent of the U.S. population with an estimated 45.5 million individuals reporting Hispanic ethnicity. Hispanics are currently the nation's largest ethnic or racial minority, and the Hispanic population is projected to nearly triple in size by the year 2050; nearly one in three U.S. residents will be Hispanic .
Generally speaking, family is an important cultural value to Hispanics. Sixty-six percent of Hispanic children live with two married parents. Comparatively, approximately seventy percent of all U.S. children live with two married parents. Hispanic couples generally have more children than other racial and ethnic groups. In 2000 the birth rate for Hispanics was 96 per 1000, compared with 69 for Blacks and 57 for Whites.
Used interchangeably, "Hispanic" or "Latino" refers to any person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central American, South American, or other Spanish cultural origin or descent. The 2000 Census expanded terminology by inquiring about "Spanish/Hispanic/Latino" ethnicity. Given the multiple countries of origin, there is much within-group variation under the label "Hispanic" or "Latino." Despite having a unified language -Spanish- there is also variation in terminology among the various countries. For example, a "tortilla" is circular flat bread made of corn or flour, but in Puerto Rico, a "tortilla" is an omelet. In Bolivia, babies are called "huahuas; in Chile, babies are known as "guaguas." However, there are also Latino cultural commonalities that unify people of Spanish-speaking countries that are described in more detail below.
There are a number of traditional beliefs about family relationships among Hispanics. Most of these beliefs overlap with philosophies of marriage and roles within the marital relationship. The extent to which Hispanics identify with or accept these cultural norms or mores, however, may depend on their country of origin and their level of acculturation and assimilation to the U.S. For instance, integration with American mainstream culture may weaken adherence to traditional Hispanic cultural views for second- or third-generation Hispanics born in the United States.
Marriage in the Hispanic culture is often seen in a familial context-extending beyond the nucleus of the married couple. This perspective is influenced by cultural beliefs regarding family, for example, "colectivismo" (defined below). Familial relationships are regarded more highly than the marital relationship. Being a good parent to children and involving extended family members or close friends as trusted sources of support are common beliefs and practices upheld by the Hispanic / Latino community.
Cultural Beliefs Related to Marriage:
• "Colectivismo" emphasizes the needs of the group rather than the individual. Family needs go before personal needs.
• "Simpatía" emphasizes achieving harmony in interpersonal relationships by avoiding conflict, emphasizing positive behaviors, and downplaying negative behaviors.
• "Familismo" refers to strong feelings of loyalty and unity among family members.
• "Marianismo" refers to being submissive, self-sacrificing, religious, humble, and modest. A wife is often evaluated by her conformity to these values.
• "Hembrismo" (femaleness) refers to strength, courage, and perseverance. A wife is expected to enforce tradition, morality, and religious values, as well as run the household and rear the children.
• A husband is expected to display "machismo," meaning he is expected to be strong, in control of the family, and responsible for providing for his family.
Marriage, Divorce and Living Arrangements:
• Approximately 67% of Hispanic households consist of a married couple; 44% consist of a married couple with children under the age of 18.
• When compared to the population at large, Hispanics have higher rates of never marrying. According to Census 2000 data, about 30% of men in the U.S. were never married; approximately 24% of women in the U.S. were never married. Comparatively, over one-third of Hispanic men (38%) and 30% of Hispanic women have never married.
• 35% of all low-income married couples are Hispanic. 40% of all low-income married parents with children under age 6 are Hispanic.
• In 2004, 37% of Hispanic marriages were to a non-Hispanic individual. The number of inter-ethnic marriages among Hispanics increased from 891,000 in 1980 to 2,076,000 in 2004. The majority of inter-ethnic marriages are between Hispanics and Whites.
• Researchers have found that compared to the overall population, the divorce rates in the year 2000 among Hispanic men and women are lower. In the general population, approximately 9% of men were divorced; approximately 11% of women were divorced. In comparison, Hispanic men have a divorce rate of 6%; Hispanic women have a divorce rate of 9%.
• When a Hispanic individual is married to a non-Hispanic individual, their marriages are more likely to end in divorce than when they are married to a Hispanic individual. Unfortunately, there is little research to explain why this is the case.
• When compared to marriages involving two White, non-Hispanic individuals, marriages between a Hispanic individual and a non-Hispanic individual have a similar or lower likelihood of divorce.
• Educational attainment has a positive association with divorce rates for Hispanics. Hispanics with less than a high school education are far less likely Whites to divorce. In contrast, Hispanics with post-high school education are more likely than Whites to divorce.
• There were 6 million unmarried partner households in 2006 (5.2 million are opposite-sex couples). Hispanics are slightly less likely to cohabit than Whites.
The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center (NHMRC) has numerous on-line resources to enhance healthy marriage curricula and family strengthening programs that are serving Hispanics.
• The NHMRC held a seminar on Capitol Hill in Washington DC entitled Healthy Marriage in Culturally and Racially Diverse Populations where panelists discussed lessons learned on serving African American, Hispanic and Native American populations in healthy marriage programs. Transcript and audio-cast of the September 2008 seminar are available.
• Appealing to Hispanic Men (Migrant Workers): Strategies for Recruitment and Engagement in Marriage Education — This Tip Sheet is designed to give practitioners strategies and advice on how to engage Hispanic men in marriage eduation programs.
• Las características de los facilitadores efectivos (Characteristics of Successful Marriage Educators) –This Spanish-language Tip Sheet provides a description of various characteristics to be considered when identifying facilitators for healthy marriage programs serving Hispanics.
• How To Partner with Existing Social Service Systems – Expanding the Reach of Hispanic-serving Healthy Marriage and Family Strengthening Programs — This How-To Guide provides tips and strategies for expanding the reach of Hispanic-serving social services.
• Trends in Percent Ever Married by Age and Race/Ethnicity — This Fact Sheet provides a table on marriage among Hispanic men and women.
• Considering Culture in Marriage Education — A Tip Sheet to help you make your curriculum culturally relevant
• Twogether in Texas Baseline Report on Marriage in the Lone Star State. See Special Report #1: Culture and Marriage: Strengths and Weaknesses of More Traditional Versus Assimilated Hispanics in the Texas survey. This is a statewide survey which includes a large Hispanic sample. Survey findings report on attitudes toward marriage, living arrangements, and interest in marriage education.
Additional Resources available through the NHMRC:
• The Hispanic Healthy Marriage Initiative (HHMI) has developed curriculum modules which can be used to supplement a marriage education program. The modules are available in their entirety on the NHMRC Website here. Topics include: Hispanic Culture and Relationships, Gender: What Makes us Different, and Talking Together.
• The Hispanic Family in Flux. Center on Children and Families Working Paper by: Roberto Suro. Nov 2007.
• Hispanic Families: Stability and Change by: Nancy S. Landale and R.S. Oropesa. Annual Review of Sociology. 2007.
• Gender Norms and the Role of the Extended Family. Publication of the HHMI. 2005.
• The Future of Marriage and Hispanics by: Nancy S. Landale and R.S. Oropesa. Journal of Marriage and Family. 2004.
• 10 Cosas Que Puedes Hacer Para Tener Un Matrimonio Saludable (10 Things You Can Do To Have a Healthy Marriage) –This Spanish-language Tip Sheet provides examples of things couples can do to strengthen their relationship.
• Preparando a tus Hijos para tener un Matrimonio Saludable (How to Teach Your Child About Healthy Marriage) –A Spanish-language Tip Sheet for parents with strategies to help teach children about the importance of healthy relationships and marriage.
• Los Efectos del Estrés en tu Relación de Pareja (How Stress Affects a Relationship) –This Spanish-language Tip Sheet offers couples strategies to protect their relationship from the negative effects of stress.
• Reconstruyendo la Confianza en Tu Matrimonio Después de una Infidelidad (Rebuilding Trust in Your Marriage After an Affair) –A Spanish-language Tip Sheet designed to help couples who have experienced infidelity rebuild a trusting relationship.
• Como Proteger Tu Matrimonio de la Infidelidad (Preventing Infidelity: How to Stop Affairs Before They Start) –Spanish-language Tip Sheet providing strategies to help couples maintain their connection and prevent infidelity.
• Como Lograr Metas Financieras en Pareja (Strategies for Couples Dealing with Financial Strain) –This Spanish-language Tip Sheet is designed to provide strategies to help couples make decisions and reach financial goals together.
• Trabajando como Equipo para Criar Hijos en otra Cultura (Working as a Team to Raise Children in Another Culture) –This Spanish-language Tip Sheet offers ideas to help couples maintain a sense of family unity while raising children in a new culture.
• The Administration for Children and Families' (ACF) Hispanic Healthy Marriage Initiative (HHMI) provides resources from tip sheets, to curricula listing, to data. This website also has many links to other useful resources: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/healthymarriage/about/hispanic_hm_initiative.508.html.
The HHMI has developed brief video interviews of healthy marriage program participants and staff, and programs are encouraged to post the videos on their own website as well as utilize them in other settings when reaching out to potential partners, educating community stakeholders and recruiting participants. The videos are available in Spanish and English and can be found at the following links:
ACF also provides this list of available resources for Hispanic Healthy Marriage programs and a guide to marriage education curricula available in Spanish:
In addition, ACF also have a series of briefs for practitioners:
• Family Bridges provides services for Hispanic couples, and this website has resources that cater to the community's culture
• The Chicagoland Marriage Resource Center primarily serves Hispanic couples and highlights information available for providers with Hispanic couples:
• The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) prepared a paper entitled Adapting Healthy Marriage Programs for Disadvantaged and Culturally Diverse Populations: What Are the Issues?
• The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study is following a cohort of nearly 5,000 children born in large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000 (roughly three-quarters of whom were born to unmarried parents). These families are considered "fragile" because they are at greater risk of breaking up and living in poverty than more traditional families. Papers of interest include:
Bendito Amor: Religion and Relationships among Married and Unmarried Latinos in Urban America Working Paper 2007-06-FF by: W. Bardford Wilcox and Edwin Hernandez.
Married and Cohabiting Parents' Relationship Stability: A Focus on Race and Ethnicity by Cynthia Osborne, Wendy Manning, and Pamela Smock. 2007. Journal of Marriage and Family. 69(5): 1345-1366.
• The Pew Hispanic Center is a nonpartisan research organization that seeks to improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population and to chronicle Latinos' growing impact on the nation.
• U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey Report — Hispanics: 2004. Released in 2007.
Positive Marital Quality, Acculturative Stress, and Child Outcomes Among Mexican Americans by: Melinda S. Leidy, Ross D. Parke, Mina Cladis, Scott Coltrane, and Sharon Duffy. Journal of Marriage and Family, Volume 71, Number 4, November 2009 , pp. 833-847(15); Blackwell Publishing.