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Latina teenagers in the United States spend more time with their parents and siblings than do teenagers in other racial/ethnic groups and Latino teenagers. As Latino/a youth make up an increasing share of the U.S. population, it may be time to reconsider what we think of as a “typical” U.S. teenager who distances themselves from family.
Why might Latina teenagers spend more time with family? We studied data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) between 2003 and 2019, and found that differences in household structure, family structure, youth’s work hours, parents’ education, parents’ work, and geographic region could not fully explain differences in time Latinos’/as’ time spent with family versus with peers.
“Extra time with family, especially for Latina youth, could be due to differences in attitudes and values related to familismo and marianismo.”
Instead, we believe the extra time with family, especially for Latina youth, could be due to differences in attitudes and values related to familismo and marianismo. Familismo attitudes place a high value on family closeness, cohesion, and reciprocity. Marianismo involves the belief that girls should be nurturing and self-sacrificing for family.
Extra time with family, especially for Latina youth, could also be both an asset and a constraint. Several studies show that when familismo is strong, there is likely to be less family conflict, lower adolescent-parent conflict, more tight-knit families, and fewer suicide attempts. Yet, extra time with family could be a constraint on Latino/a youth if familismo values such as spending time together are not shared between parents and children or if time with family is burdensome or overwhelming. Additionally, extra time with family could be detrimental if it entails saying no to opportunities outside the household, such as educational or extracurricular activities, or even going to college away from home.
Other findings from our research
In our analysis of the ATUS from 2003 to 2019, we examined daily family contact patterns – the total daily minutes spent with both nuclear and extended family – among Latino/a 15- to 18 year-olds. For the sake of comparison, we also included Black and White youth of the same age. Opportunities for family time may depend on who lives in the household, so we focused on youth who had focal family members (e.g., siblings, grandparents) living in their households.
On average, Latino/a youth spent more time with their parents than did Black youth, and more time with siblings than did both White and Black youth. Latino boys spent less time with parents, but more time with siblings, than did White boys.
“It may be time to reconsider what we think of as a “typical” U.S. teenager who distances themselves from family.”
Our analysis yielded some unexpected results: We thought Latino/a youth in immigrant households would spend more time with family than Latino/a youth whose parents were born in the United States, yet we found no such differences. Latino boys in immigrant households did spend more time with siblings but also spent less time with household adult relatives than Latino boys in non-immigrant households. We also thought Latino/a youth might spend more time with extended family than their White and Black counterparts did, but we found few racial/ethnic differences in time with extended families among the three groups.
- Ackert E & Wikle JS (2021), Familism among Latino/a adolescents: Evidence from time-use data, Journal of Marriage and Family, 1.21