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ethnicity and generations in the US

Hispanic American

"The web of relationships that extends across generations in Hispanic families provides a support network sustained by rules of mutual obligation. These rules are perpetuated by patterns of caretaking that fulfill expectations of emotional, physical, and economic support for those who need it from those capable of providing it. ... The sense of responsibility and mutual obligation can be so ingrained among Hispanics that individuals with few resources run the risk of self-sacrifice. Women, in particular, are expected to assume caretaking roles in the family and tend to experience more pressure than do men to devote their lives to the welfare of others. Becoming martyrs gives them special status, in that family members often see their sacrifice as exemplary. However, the price they pay for 'carrying this cross' is often too high (Garcia-Preto 1990)." The idea of Hembrismo connotes strength, perseverance, flexibility and the ability to survive. It can also translate into a woman's attempt to fulfill her multiple-role expectations as mother, wife, worker, daughter, and community member -- a 'superwoman' working double shifts at home and at work. 

"A common source of intergenerational conflict in Hispanic famiiies who enter therapy is the struggle between parents and children who have grown apart while trying to adapt to American culture. ... Discussing a family's migratory history and acculturation process may help clarify conflicts over cultural values. ... Leaving the family system (e.g. through divorce or separation) is extremely risky for both men and women because it implies loss of control, support, and protection. ... For example, women usually depend on other women in the extended family for help with child-rearing and domestic tasks, because men are not expected to share these responsibilities. Without the help of their mother, mother-in-aw, grandmothers, aunts, or sisters, Hispanic women may become overburdened and begin demanding assistance from their husband. The husband may, in turn, resent these demands and become argumentative and sitant, perhaps turning to alcohol, gambling, or extramarital affairs. The extended family can provide a measure of control for aggression and violence by intervening in arguments and providing advice to couples. Helping couples make connections with relatives, friends, or community supports may be the therapist's most crucial task." [View source ]

Skolnick, Arlene S. and Jerome H., Families in Transition, 1997, pg. 344-345.


Irish American

Irish intergenerational families are not generally characterized by intimacy. The extended family is not considered generally a resource in times of trouble. Intergenerational secrets are common.  The mother cares for both the young and the cold. "The Irish tend to focus more on their children's conformity to rules than on other aspects of their child's development, such as emotional expression, self-assertiveness, or creativity. ... Traditionally, the Irish have believed that children should be seen and not heard. ... Irish parents tend to have a superficial sense of child psychology, hoping that keeping their children clean, out of trouble, and teaching them right from wrong will get them through. When children develop psychological symptoms, Irish parents are often mystified. ... The stereotype of the "sainted Irish mother" is not totally positive .... She can also be critical, distant, and lacking in affection, less concerned about nurturing her children than about control and discipline. ... For generations, Irish women have held rule in their families, including control of the family money. ...Irish communication patterns are generally characterized by a high degree of ambiguity and confusion. Because Irish parents often control their children via indirect communication, such as humor, teasing, sarcasm, and ridicule, outsiders may not understand why children become so frustrated dealing with their parents and feel a need to distance themselves from the family in order to feel 'sane.' ... Unlike other children -- such as African-American, Greek, Italian, or Jewish -- who are freer to express their resentment, Irish children may be extremely sensitive to perceived slights, such as favors shown to siblings, or other imagined wrongs. They may never confront the parents or the sibling with their feelings, dutifully continuing their caretaking responsibilities while maintaining tense silence with regard to their emotional wounds." [View source ]

Skolnick, Arlene S. and Jerome H., Families in Transition, 1997, pg. 348


Asian-Indian American

Despite the intersecting influences of caste, region, and religion, predictable intergenerational conflicts emerge among family members." The degree to which beliefs about caste and karma affect adaptation to life in Western society is influenced by level of education and acculturation. "Intergenerational patterns are embedded and negotiated within a collective consciousness. Relationships are other-directed rather than self-centered. Spirituality and simplicity are applauded, and family-centered decisions take priority over individual preferences. ... Older men assume decision-making authority. .. Child rearing is a shared responsibility of the women in the male-extended-family system. ... Power in Western marriages is directly connected to the economic resources of each partner. This notion of power and relationships is less applicable to Asian indian families, because a couple's economic resources are distributed across the extended male-oriented family system." Unlike the white American nuclear family, in which marriage stands at the center of the family system, in Asian Indian system, the relationship between men and their mothers is at the center. ... "Western values of privacy and individualism conflict with Indian values of collectivity and family-centerdness. [View source ]

Skolnick, Arlene S. and Jerome H., Families in Transition, 1997, pg. 351



"Jews in the United States have been both fearful of and fascinated by assimilation into the mainstream culture."  Families often enter therapeutic treatment to deal with conflicting feelings with regard to intermarriage. "In Jewish families, women have traditionally held power at home while the husband faced the work world." But during the Great Depression, many women were forced to work.  Many of their daughters became traditional homemakers, while the next generation of women has tried to combine both by being the 'supermom'. Religion is a major source of intergenerational conflict, as there are many different definitions of Judaism.  [View source ]

Skolnick, Arlene S. and Jerome H., Families in Transition, 1997.


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