One's family is often considered to be the most important part of life for Argentines. While the is the most common household unit, Argentines tend to maintain strong ties with their extended family. In Argentina, there is a general expectation placed upon individuals to be loyal and committed to their family by putting the interests of the family above their own. Close-knit family relations provide Argentines with a network of security and support, particularly in times of need. Families often sacrifice much to provide their children with a good education, and in turn, children usually care for their parents as they age.
Extended families regularly visit each other and celebrate major occasions such as a wedding or birthday as well as major holidays such as Christmas and New Year. Relatives will also visit frequently if they live nearby. While couples are expected to establish their own households, they usually make efforts to remain in close contact with members of their extended family. Argentines tend to stay at home until they get married or graduate from university. It is also not uncommon to find family members working together, as family businesses are more desirable.
The Household Structure
The family dynamic and household structure vary between social classes. In the lower classes, families tend to be larger, for which they may receive government subsidies to assist in raising the children. Families in the middle and upper classes are usually smaller, with about one to two children. Those among the higher social classes tend to have a more family structure. Children are raised differently depending on their parents’ socioeconomic status. In families from lower classes, the mother, relatives or neighbours usually care for their children. In contrast, those in a higher class tend to employ babysitters, maids or child care providers in daycare centres. This may occur even if the mother is not engaged in paid labour.
The set of attributes that are generally perceived as ideal for males and females in are known as ‘machismo’ and ‘marianismo’ respectively. Under these cultural standards, men are expected to be masculine, self-reliant and dominant. Meanwhile, women are expected to be feminine and the main providers of care. One effect of these attitudes is visible in the differing expectations placed upon men and women regarding the household. In general, raising children and managing the household finances is the responsibility of the mother. In turn, she usually exerts great influence in family decision making. Men tend to be responsible for financially supporting the family.
In recent generations, gender roles and expectations have been gradually changing. Men take on more domestic work and women are becoming more visible and influential in the economic and political facets of Argentinian society. Additionally, people are increasingly accepting of alternatives to the traditional family, such as unmarried couples, single mothers, + couples and couples without children.
Dating and Marriage
Argentine boys and girls begin interacting and dating one another around the age of 15 when girls have what is considered to be their most important birthday (cumpleaños de quince). This event is seen as marking the end of a girl's childhood and her transition into adulthood. Typical activities for teenagers and young adults are dancing, playing sports, dining out and going to the cinema. Serious relationships tend to develop slowly over several years before a couple decides to marry. Couples who attend university will usually postpone marriage until their mid-twenties to early thirties, waiting until they have graduated and achieved stability in their careers. Some may marry earlier depending on their circumstances. Men and women are generally free to decide who they marry.
Marriage prior to cohabitation is still considered the norm in more traditional parts of Argentina such as the northern and southern provinces. However, in more progressive areas, cohabitation before or instead of marriage is becoming more common. Argentina was one of the first countries to legalise same-sex marriage, thus granting same-sex couples the same legal rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Previously, the Catholic Church had a strong influence on matters relating to marriage, such as its strong stance against divorce. Divorce was legalised in Argentina in the 1980s; however, the practice remains quite uncommon.
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