Brazilian values are deeply rooted in family. Family is the most important element of Brazilian culture, and the foundation of Brazil's social structure. A closer look at Brazilian family values reveals close-knit bonds, reverence for elders, and the desire to maintain strong connections throughout extended families. While Brazil's family values continue to evolve over time, the fact remains that the family unit is the central support system from which all else stems.
Traditional Brazilian Family Values
Brazilians embrace the notion of familial support throughout their extended clans, and they encourage strong family bonds, trust and respect among family members.
In the past, Brazilian families tended to be large. When a couple married, the individuality of that couple as a new household was recognized and respected. However, newly married couples were also expected to maintain close family ties and proximity with their extended family, including godparents and godchildren. It is also common for several generations of family to live with one another. Three generations is actually the norm.
In good times, family gatherings were opportunities for socializing; and these close-knit relationships also provided a support network which people could turn to in times of trouble or need. Strong family ties are still encouraged in Brazil, but how much interaction occurs between family members today is influenced by social and economic factors, just as it is in America and many other parts of the world. Additionally, family comes first in this culture. While Brazilians work hard, their family is more important than their career.
Close family ties also carry over into the business world. Nepotism is actually encouraged and viewed as a way to hire employees you know and trust. However, it is such "positions of trust" that also opened the door for corruption in the Brazilian government.
Family Roles in the Household
Originally, Brazil's social structure was primarily patriarchal in nature. Men were typically in positions of power and head of the household. Additionally, a sense of strong masculine pride was, and in many cases, still is common within this culture. Women were relegated to domestic duties and often lacked formal education. However, women were also the glue that helped hold the family together.
Families typically gather together for meal times; and lunch is usually a substantial meal during which families socialize and enjoy each other's company. Family dinners also offer a time for members to dine together and connect. Traditionally, meals were prepared from scratch, and lunch and dinner ended with a strong cup of coffee. The type of food served varies by region, though rice, beans and root vegetables are staples.
Prior to marriage, Brazilians typically date their spouse for several years. Additionally, many people will marry within their own specific social class. This is due to the fact that Brazil is quite class conscious.
In 2019, Brazil passed a law banning child marriage. According to Girls Not Brides, "Brazil has the fifth highest absolute number of women married or in a union before the age of 18 in the world: 2,226,000." According to Brazil's new law, the legal age for marriage is 18, but Plan International reports that while the new law bans marriage for girls under the age of 16, some underage girls were "able to be married off if they were pregnant or if they had [an] older sexual partner seeking to avoid a criminal sentence for statutory rape." Additionally, 16- and 17-year-old girls can be married with their parents' consent.
Respect for Elders
In Brazilian culture, grandparents and the elderly are seldom put in a nursing home; instead, they most often live with their children. Their input on important family discussions is encouraged and sought after. Additionally, respecting elders and treating them well is also part of the law in Brazil. It is expected to allow seniors to cut in line or give up your seat for them.
In Brazil, personal values are important. In their relationships and families, people appreciate honesty, respect, trust and patience. Warmth and compassion are valued among families, along with respect for all family members, including children. This tendency towards compassion is perhaps what helped Forbes to rank Brazil 11th among the friendliest countries.
Over the last 30 years, family values in Brazil have undergone significant challenges along with changes to the traditional nuclear family.
Changing Role of Women and Families
Today, many Brazilian households have two working spouses; in fact, about 44 percent of women work, and the number of single-parent households has increased. Family is still valued highly, but divorce and marital separation are much more common. Many women are now the head of their household, and the dynamics of the family often include children from more than one marriage or other union. Smaller families are also becoming more common. There is a trend among young people of living elsewhere after graduation, possibly alone or with roommates. Families are also moving to urban areas for more career opportunities and living away from extended family.
Today's Brazilian Family Values
With the societal changes that have touched Brazilian culture, the family structure has somewhat changed, but the values that encourage close family ties remain. Even today, it is not unusual for three generations to live in the same house. According to Commisceo Global, other important family values in Brazil that have withstood cultural changes include:
- When children marry, they often live near the parents.
- Children are expected to contribute as part of the family unit.
- Family relationships still play a key role in social and business interactions.
The Value of Family
While modern family makeup may differ from the traditional Brazilian family structure, in some instances, Brazilian family values have survived the changes. Family is valued in Brazil and close-knit relationships still provide a network of support. The main challenge to this closeness today deals with children who graduate from college and live elsewhere, and family members who relocate for work and no longer live near their extended families.