Family plays a large role in everyday life for most Brazilians. Great expectation is put on being loyal and committed to the family unit, with help to be given to one’s family members when asked. These values often come before one’s self-interests. The parent-child relationship is also typically characterised by affection and warmth rather than authority. While Brazilians are quiteand interdependent, family members usually give each other encouragement and freedom to pursue their personal interests.
Family (known as ‘parentela’) often refers to one’s large extended kin group rather than immediate family alone. Thus, the Brazilian model of family structure is more encompassing than the concept of aunit. Brazilians tend to interact with their extended family quite often. Family members are nearly always willing to help each other in a time of need, and provide a sense of stability and certainty for most people. However, support can also come through ritual kinship, known as ‘compadrio’. This is when parents choose additional friends and organisations to be a part of their family, such as parent-teacher associations.
It is common to find three generations living under one roof in a Brazilian home. Whilst Brazilian families are traditionally quite large, this is gradually changing with the shift from ato an society. One reason why several generations continue to live in the same home in modern society is to reduce living expenses, particularly rental costs. Moreover, Brazil has seen widespread migration throughout the mid-20th century. The traditional family structure has been affected by the movement of people, with many leaving their homes in impoverished or rural areas for potential employment in urbanised areas in Brazil or abroad.
Household and Gender
Perceptions of the household and gender differ by location, with rural areas typically being more conservative from the cities. For the most part, Brazil is traditionally a highlysociety with still a common attitude among men. Moreover, men are typically in positions of power and control in the public and private spheres. The husband is often considered to be the head of the household, whilst attending to household matters is exclusively the role of the wife. This distinction normally persists, regardless of whether the wife also has a job.
There was once a common perception that a man was responsible for disciplining his wife. In turn, women were expected to act honourably to protect the husband’s pride and honour. Moreover, expectations of women are often based on the popular stereotype of ‘Amélia’ – a docile woman who serves her man. Independent women and those who take initiative may not be highly regarded by male counterparts. A popular proverb that captures attitudes towards formidable women is “em casara que mulher manda, até o galo canta fino” – “in a house where a woman rules, even the rooster crows quietly”. As such, dominant women are often tagged with derogatory terms such as ‘mulher chamosa’ (‘commanding woman’), or ‘mulher mandona’ (‘bossy woman’).
Despite these stereotypes, women are increasingly attaining more positions in the workforce and defying expectations of subservience. Brazilian women make a significant contribution to both the paid and unpaid labour force. It is estimated that 42% of Brazil’s paid workforce is comprised of women.
Dating and Marriage
Dating among youth may begin when people are in their early teens, but these relationships tend not to be serious. Teengers usually meet at school and socialise in groups. Once people are young adults, they usually date for one to three years before deciding to become engaged. Since Brazil is quite a class-conscious society, people will generally marry from a similar social background.
There is a distinction between types of marriages in Brazil, namely civil and religious. However, religious marriages are on the decline, particularly in urban areas. Traditionally, Brazilians were expected to marry at a young age and reproduce early in their life. This is changing in contemporary society, with an increasing number of people going to university and seeking financial security before marriage. These attitudes are more predominant in the urban middle class.