A) Introduction: Family, the concept/ term often used to describe those that are related by blood or marriage, but does not encapsulate all households, especially the types we encounter nowadays across cultures. In this essay I will compare the contemporary societies and family definitions of the United States and Brazil. Focusing on various components that represent family life, I hope to bring about a clearer picture of the similarities and differences in these countries.
The Brazilian population was approximately 201. 01 million as of 2013, while the US population was 316. 7 million for the same year (“Countries Compared by People > Population. International Statistics at NationMaster. com”). Given these statistics we can see that both countries have large populations and they also happen to be sizable geographically. These factors contributed to my reason for choosing to compare/ contrast Brazil and the US, as they are important “representatives” of the Americas. The major religion in both the US and Brazil is Christianity.
As of 2013, Brazil has a Roman Catholic following of (73. 6%) while the US was (23. %) (“Countries Compared by People > Population. International Statistics at NationMaster. com”). So even though both countries are primarily Christian, their respective affiliations differ and this creates various outlooks on family. Some other important elements to consider in defining the families that thrive in these environments include: education, poverty levels, divorce rates, unemployment rates, and the various roles assigned to the men and women of these respective civilizations. Each component correlates to how families are formed, as well as what they look like.
The various layers come together to give us an idea of what family means to each culture respectively, but this is only a glimpse and changes as society and its people evolve. B) Claims/ Evidence: From my personal experience as a Brazilian-American with much family still living in Brazil, I know that family and unity (despite divorce) are important parts of the culture. I have seen in my own family how single-parents still get along with each other, and often continue ties with both sides of the families in consideration of the children. I do not think that is as common in the US, at least not by my observations.
Some of these differences are definitely due to religious ties and an overall sense of the need to “stay together” often associated with Latin culture (“Marriage Trends in Latin America: A Fact Sheet”). As noted in “Marriage Trends in Latin America: A Fact Sheet,” (2011) document from the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center website, Brazil did not make divorce legal until 1977. “In recent times, due to more Western cultural adaptations and increased financial autonomy, women face less of a stigma when divorcing and have greater freedom to choose this option (“Marriage Trends in Latin America: A Fact Sheet”).
In comparing, divorce is regulated on the state level in the US and has been a part of its history since colonial times (“The History Of Divorce Law In The USA | History Cooperative”). Although before 1969 California, one of the parties in the couple had to be at fault in order to get divorced. It was not until the 70s that other states followed California’s lead in the “no-fault” divorce law (“The History Of Divorce Law In The USA| History Cooperative”). Through these changes the family systems transformed as well.
It became easier to sever ties with one another and live as single-parents, especially in the US. As previously mentioned, this is seen in Brazil as well (although Catholicism lends a certain guilt to the equation) and when a couple divorces the children usually go with the woman that may move in with extended family, creating a “multi-generational” household. Meanwhile in the US, according to a December 2014 Washington Post article by Emily Badger: “More women are having their children later in life.
Or they’re doing so in less traditional ways: before marriage, without marriage, or with unmarried partners. Single motherhood has grown so common in America that demographers now believe half of all children will live with a single mom at some point before the age of 18 (Badger, “The unbelievable rise of single motherhood in America over the last 50 years”). ” The US is ahead of Brazil regarding women’s rights/ freedoms, especially when it comes to employment and roles within family. Even though the current Brazilian president is a woman, it is still heavily dominated male society.
Brazilian men often take a macho stance and are the primary breadwinners as well the domineering force within a household, but this is just one type of family that makes up a culturally/ socially diverse country. Per Dessen & Torres (2002), “… Brazilian contemporary family includes a hierarchical structure, with husband/father exerting authority and power over the wife and children, a work division separating ‘masculine’ from ‘feminine’ tasks, and attribution and the bigger proximity between the mother and the children (Dessen & Torres, “Family and socialization factors in Brazil: An overview… ). ”
Meanwhile in the US, as we read in the Stephanie Coontz (1999) article: “What’s new is not that women make half their families’ living, but that for the first time they have substantial control over their own income, along with the social freedom to remain single or to leave an unsatisfactory marriage (Coontz, “The American Family”). ” In Brazil women are now catching up to that type of lifestyle in the sense of more equality between men and women in the workforce. Some of the biggest problems facing Brazil are the corrupt government, and the brutal poverty which directly impacts the children.
As discovered in Badger’s Washington Post article, here in the US we are seeing the rise of single-motherhood, which contributes to poverty issues, lack of education, and health care access barriers (Badger, “The unbelievable rise of single motherhood in America over the last 50 years”). While in Brazil the poverty level has improved, mostly due to a social program called, “Bolsa Familia” which is an “anti-poverty campaign” that pays families for doing things like taking their kids to school, getting health check-ups, and maintaining health insurance (White, “What Brazil can teach America about fighting poverty”).
This program does seem to help in some ways, although many in my own family have said that it is unfair. Even though the economy overall has improved in Brazil, this program is more of a “mask” for the important problems like low wages and unfair job conditions (White, “What Brazil can teach America about fighting poverty”). Unlike the US, Brazil has the favelas/“shanty-towns” that dot the beautiful mountains overlooking Guanabara Bay in Rio, as an example.
Within these towns is a world within itself– drug-dealers and gangs are the leaders and children have very few opportunities outside of working for the older ones in order to survive and have something to eat each day. Many children are abandoned and become “street kids. ” (White, “What Brazil can teach America about fighting poverty”). These children roam the city looking for money and often turn to drugs and violence as a result of no family support, structure, education, or other options.
C) Analysis/ Conclusions: Overall I feel the problems that face a country like Brazil and its families definitely have some overlap with the hardships we see here in the US, but just like the geography, they are also distinct. The US is a more stable country, and even though our economy is suffering we can still count on certain systems to work. Brazil is a country of strikes, riots, high crime, and general uncertainty. It is a nation where the elite high-class society rubs against the “street kids” and their favela dwellings.
The US has a large middle class and there seems to be little upward mobility, but still if one works hard enough it is more likely that he/ she will experience change in his/ her lifetime, and not just a band-aid, like “Bolsa Familia. ” I stress the economic conditions of these nations as an example of strain for the families that are born there. We have a rise in single-mothers here in the US, but in Brazil many women are at home with their children and their husbands dictate the rules. In the US we have seen more of a shift from this male dominated household, but we still have a long way to go to reach equality.
Brazil is a country of “happy” people that love to celebrate life, food, music, and the bonds of family, but there is a corruption that spreads just beneath the “Carnaval’s” jovial facade. The US has better societal structures and institutions in place to accommodate the children that grow up here, but just like no family is perfect, neither is the society that creates it. We are made up of many layers, and the faces of families around the world adapt accordingly… some to a samba beat, while others sing of patriotism and allegiance to the flag… our global families uniting as we grow closer in our digitally driven existence.