Recently, the Latino population in the US has become the largest ethnic group. According to the Census data, the Latino population grew by 58% from 1990 to 2000, whereas the total population grew by 13% in the same period (Skogrand, 2005). The number is estimated to be much larger but due to their undocumented status many Latino people did not participate during the 2000 census. The term "Latino" includes a wide variety of immigrant subgroups that speak Spanish, and encompasses a number of groups from Central and South Americas, with migrants from Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba being the largest, and “Latina” is the feminine form.
Young Latino Mothers
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A research conducted by Berkowitz and Kahn (1995) titled, Sources of Support for Young Latina Mothers, highlighted the plight of young Latina mothers in the US and ways to address their problems. Due to high rates of immigration and fertility of young Latina women, which is twice compared to the rest of the US population, their numbers are growing rapidly. According Berkowitz and Kahn, many young mothers and their children are poor, and young mothers who raise their children independently bear the brunt of hardship compared to those who live with husbands or parents or other adults who are financially sound. However, neither getting married nor outside support to cushion the young mothers from poverty and other adverse affects.
There is no single to pattern to describe Latina mothers as they are diverse; however, there are certain features each of the subgroups. Puerto Rican mothers are impoverished compared with other groups, remain single, live away from parents or relatives, and are welfare dependents. Cuban mothers are economically well off with low rates of welfare benefits. Central and South American mothers living patterns are similar to Anglos, though they are poorer to the Anglos.
Young teenage mothers who raise the children on their own are found to be the most vulnerable. Teen mothers who live with their parents and relatives tend to remain in school and less likely to be poor. Married teen mothers are better off compared to single teen mothers who live with relatives or parents. However, married teen mothers are less likely to attend school than unmarried, resulting in lower education levels. Mothers who delayed their first births after the teen years had done well compared to parents who became teen mothers – they completed school and college.
Social and Cultural Influences
Acculturation and biculturalism, according to several researchers, influence the parenting style among young mothers. Acculturation is the process in which an individual acquires the skills required for life in a new environment. Hence, the impact of acculturation has altered traditional gender roles that resulted in women taking up employment, yet they fall into low income groups. Latinas who are less acculturated have traditional gender role beliefs, whereas more acculturated Latinas see more life choices (Latina Adolescent Health, 2007).
Within the community, there are large cultural differences, however, there are commonalities within many Latino families. According to research the Latino families give importance to family, religion and gender roles. The importance of the family is the pervasive value in the Latino culture, extended family is essential. Both parenthood and partnerships are considered to be same as family affiliations are given importance. The main purpose of the marriage is to have children and the subsequent family life.
Traditional roles play a critical role in reinforcing the gender roles: Machismo alludes to maleness or manliness and a man is expected to be physically strong, authority figure in the family who sustains the family. On the contrary, the role of the woman is complementary or Marianismo, who is self-sacrificing, religions and a homemaker. In Latino culture, motherhood for women is an important goal, apart from taking care of the elderly relatives and children.
The importance of family and motherhood in the culture encourages young Latinas to become mothers during their teenage years. Due to high value for motherhood in Latino culture, young women do not see pregnancy negatively. Latino cultural traditions are found to be barriers to young women's ability to communicate openly with their partners. Some young women have babies with a hope that will bring attention from baby’s father, and later he will take up the responsibility of fatherhood; in Latino culture he is the sustainer of the family. They have the highest unmarried birthrate in the nation, over three times that of whites and Asians, and nearly one-and-a half times that of African-American women.
Nearly half of the children of Latina mothers are born out of wedlock, and there is no sign lessening of the rate as there numbers are increasing rapidly. This is due to one of the traditional Hipic values to have children and often. It is seen as a honorable thing for a young girl to have a baby, and it is difficult to persuade young single mothers to give up children for adoption. The tight-knit extended family assists unwed child rearing.
Documenting fathers of illegitimate children is problematic as the impregnators of younger women are sometimes their uncles, boyfriend of the girl’s mother, older men who have a false notion that virgins are not capable of motherhood and who avoid sexually transmitted diseases. Often, the mother’s family do not view see anything bad of these activities (Mac Donald, 2006).
Although older men take advantage of younger women, the age difference between the mother and the father of an illegitimate is child is narrowing. An agency in California found that fathers as young as 13 to 14 years of age and it quite common to find an 18-year-old to have children with different girls, and boys feel getting a girl pregnant is peer approval thing. A large majority of fathers abandon their children and mothers, for a father may be already married or doing drugs or in prison. Though they know about the fathers’ whereabouts but do not know if they are working or in jail. The young women’s mothers are callous and overlook what is happening in their daughters’ lives, and the existing social milieu perpetuates the child-bearing activities.
- Berkowitz, R. ; Kahn, J. (1995). Sources of support for young Latina mothers. Retrieved on June 19, 2007, from http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/cyp/xslatina.htm
- Latina Adolescent Health. (2007). Retrieved on June 19, 2007, from http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/iag/latina.htm
- Mac Donald, H. (2006). Hipic Family Values? Hipic trending. Retrieved on June 19, 2007, from http://juantornoe.blogs.com/hipictrending/2006/11/hipic_family.html
- Skogrand, L. (2005). Understanding Latino families, implications for family education. Retrieved on June 19, 2007, from Utah State University, Extension Web site: http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/FR_Family_2005-02.pdf
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