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Detecting distinctions: Extended family integration among Latinos/as and Whites

Mariana Gerena, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation examines two central debates concerning Latino/a families: the superintegration versus disintegration debate focusing on the direction of differences in extended family integration between Latinos/as and Whites, and the culture versus structure debate seeking to determine whether it is cultural or structural factors that are responsible for these differences. Using the second wave of the NSFH (1992-94), this dissertation explores the ethnic differences in extended family integration as well as investigates cultural and structural factors that may produce these differences. Examining three components of family integration---proximity to kin, contact with kin, and kin support---the dissertation first compares Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and other Latinos/as, and finds that Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans are similar in their family integration, while other Latinos/as are different from them. This finding emphasizes the need for comparing Latino/a groups to each other. Based on the results of this comparison, the dissertation combines Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans into a single Latino/a category, and finds that Latinos/as are significantly more likely to live with and near kin, as well as to frequently see their kin in person, than Whites. Thus, the findings on proximity and contact support the argument that Latino/a families are more integrated than White families. Examining kin support, however, this dissertation finds that Latinos/as and Whites are similar in terms of instrumental help and emotional support but different in financial assistance and child care help: Latinos/as are less likely that Whites to give or receive financial assistance, and Latinas are more likely than White women to give or receive child care help. Thus, the findings on kin support refute both the disintegration and the superintegration arguments, and support the arguments of multiracial feminist theorists, who criticize dichotomous approaches to Latino/a families. In terms of the culture versus structure debate, this study finds that the differences between Latino/a and White family integration can be attributed primarily to the ethnic differences in socioeconomic standing. Cultural factors and nuclear-family composition only play a small role in explaining the ethnic differences. Thus, this dissertation primarily offers confirmation to structural approaches.

Subject Area

Latin American history|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Gerena, Mariana, "Detecting distinctions: Extended family integration among Latinos/as and Whites" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3193905.