Family Changes and Public Policies of Latin America (Long Blog post #2)

Garcia, Brigida and Orlandina de Oliveira. 2011. “Family Changes and Public Policies in Latin America.” Annual Review of Sociology. Vol.37, pp.593-611.

Dane Bohrer

Solo Blog Post #2

Family Changes and Public Policies in Latin America


  • Latin America has a large interest in what causes such a large gap between family transformations and public policies
  • Government programs cater to family models, gender roles, and generational structures that do not reflect modern times
  • Latin America has an estimated 576 million people living in 20 countries
  • Average life expectancy is 73.5 years, with an estimated 2.3 children born per woman
  • Urbanization increased, 80% of people live in urban areas, twice that of the 1950’s
  • Education has also seen great improvements
  • However economic tendencies have varied throughout the years
  • Latin America is one of the most financially unequal regions in the world
  • Most jobs in Latin American countries consist of unskilled labor jobs, which means low salaries, and little to no health insurance or pensions
  • Low tax rates and no standard method of tax collection

Family Transformations

  • Were selected on the basis of sociodemographics, and gender perspectives
  • The studies conducted were longitudinal studies, meaning they took place over a large period of time

Household Size, Composition, and Headship

  • Family size in Latin American homes varies by country, but on average will have anywhere from 3-4 members per household
  • The family size in Latin American countries in declining
    • Attributed to:
      • Drop in fertility
      • What age a person gets married
      • Instability among the family
      • Economic status
  • Majority of people in Latin America are composed of a nuclear family
  • Extended and complex family structures are quite common due to a lack of housing and economic freedom
  • Patriarchal families
  • Latin American countries that are better off financially tend to have a greater number of single person households
  • Single parent (mother) families are also extremely common
    • This leads to several problems such as:
      • Consensual unions
      • Family instability
      • Morality rates between men and women
      • Where the men live
      • Domestic violence
      • Early pregnancies
    • Educational and labor advances for women has also made it easier for a women to leave an unhealthy union or marriage
  • Typically female run houses are found more in urban areas than rural areas
  • Correlation between female run households and poverty

Family Formation and Dissolution

  • The formations and dissolutions of Latin American families are harder to change than the families of the United States and Europe on average
  • There is a large range of consent for marriages ranging from around 20% to almost 65% in Latin America
  • Consensual unions are typically more violent than marriages
  • Separations and divorces are increasing according to cross-sectional data
  • Unions typically are more common in poor, less educated areas of Latin America
  • Latin Americas family issues are heterogeneous

Family Dynamics: Division of Labor and Forms of Family Life

  • Focus on division of labor and forms of family life

The division of extradomestic and domestic labor and caretaking

  • Male is the sole bread-winner, while the female stays at home and does housework and cares for the family
  • However, a change is taking place for women in the labor force
  • Data shows that currently only 20% of families adhered to this patriarchal model
  • 2010 – over 50% of women in Latin America were working
  • The female labor force is generally part-time and unpaid, or vastly underpaid compared to similar male jobs
  • Women typically work more in a week than men, when the housework is taken into account as well as paid jobs
  • Male parent roles are on the rise in Latin America, but this is still a new idea

Forms of Family Life: Gender Relations Between Spouses

  • 3 Very Important Aspect to consider when studying forms of family life
    • Female participation in decision making
    • The  control of women by males
    • Domestic violence
    • Female autonomy is associated with a more violent reaffirmation of male authority
      • Perhaps because of social values and norms have not evolved at the same rate as material conditions and gender roles

Social Policies Oriented Toward Families

  • What policies exist (but are uncoordinated and weak)
    • Healthcare
    • Education
    • Social security
    • Combat poverty
    • Combat domestic violence
    • Changes in these areas have been taking place since the 1980’s
    • Birth control isn’t as important as it was in previous decades to control family size
    • Consensual unions have gained the status as marriages in some situations
    • While divorce is legal, the laws regulating divorce are extremely difficult to get around
    • Since the 1990’s families run by women warrant special consideration and policies
    • Women should be the ones in the family to receive assistance, not men

Reconciling Work and Family

  • It is imperative to find policies to reduce tensions between families and work
    • i.e. Maternity Leave
    • Paternity Leave
    • Leave in cases of illness of family members, deaths, accidents
    • Day care centers

Domestic Violence

  • A lot of attention has been given to raising awareness about gender violence
  • Policies regarding domestic violence are much more advanced and defined than policies regarding families and work
  • Very important in the health area of the Latin American countries
  • Such programs are:
    • Special Commission for Assisting Women in Brazil
    • Psychosocial assistance strategies in Chile
    • National systems for the treatment and prevention of domestic violence in Columbia
    • Integral legal services in Bolivia
    • Local networks against violence in Costa Rica
    • National programs for a life without violence in Mexico
    • Women’s groups, organizations, and female government leaders have had a large role in curbing domestic violence laws
    • Problems that arise:
      • Lack of sufficient budgets
      • Dependence on international cooperation
      • Lack of effort and support from courts and police
      • Lack of coordination among agencies, organizations, and institutions

Families and Policies: Agreements and Disagreements

  • Public policies regarding families in Latin America are changing for the better but they still have different degrees of coverage and rates
  • Insufficient though for meeting the demands from the sociodemographic changes
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