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Traditional Hispanic/Latino Women

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Abstract

Gender plays a huge role in a traditional Hispanic community and having experienced it firsthand, the role of Latino women definitely revolves around their family and household. This topic will bring an understanding and awareness about Hispanic women and how they are highly capable of contributing to society as well but may be shut down by the expectations of their culture. Women tend to define who they are through their family (children), parents, husband and a small circle of friends rather than defining as strong independent women. According to Lopez-Baez, “For women, conflicts may involve expectations associated with traditional roles, anxiety and or depression over not being able to live up to these standards, and the inability to express their feelings or anger ( as cited in Sue and Sue, 2016, p.530).” Even after Hispanic women have become acculturated into American society, it is still difficult for them break themselves from the unity of the traditional family dynamic. When Hispanic women decide to break out of the tradition, they are faced with many criticisms from individuals of the same culture because they are breaking the stereotype. That they are to stay home and take care of the responsibilities of the household. It can be so difficult for a Hispanic woman to try to break out and become independent without having to rely on their family of husband to support them. Moving forward into the study, counselors should discover the client’s point of faithfulness to traditional gender norms, as well as the gender role visions among family members (Sue and Sue, 2016). Also, when dealing with gender role struggles, counselors who believe in equal relationships must be cautious not to inflict their views on clients (Sue and Sue, 2016). This study will analyze and support this topic in support of Hispanic women who contribute to the family but their voice may not be heard due to the overpowering nature of Hispanic males.

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Group Values

The traditional female role for Latinas, marianismo (“Virgin Mary” or Madonna”), is a custom that calls for women to be devoted to its entirety for their family which entails taking care of their children and the household (Liang, Knauer-Turner, Molenaar & Price 2016). Having children and becoming a housewife is of great importance to traditional Hispanic women. Latinas strive to make sure they marry young or at least have children at a young age. Education is not on the top of their list of their value system in many young Hispanic girls. This is attributed to how they are being raised by their mothers. It can be frowned upon in the Latino community if a young woman in her thirties is still not married or does not have children. Family dynamics is greatly valued in the Hispanic culture and they strive to keep it like that generation after generation. It has become evident that women value family as referred as familismo as a priority in their lives and they have a deep desire to always center their lives on immediate and extended family. Another aspect of important values in Hispanic women are the gender roles and most women take them really seriously. They value the man as the head of household, the protector and provider of the family. According to Liang, Knauer-Turner, Molenaar & Price, “Within Mexican American culture, female gender role norms are captured in the notion of marianismo, which is a cultural value that denotes the gender role expectations of Latina women. For instance, a study of the marianismo construct showed that it encompasses expectations that a Latina is dedicated to one’s family, be subordinate to others, and self-silencing in order to maintain harmonious relationships (2016).” Recently, it has become common that young Latina women break a bit from the traditional roles and they go out and seek an education or at least a job to help provide for the family. Even though Latina women are becoming self-sufficient in the fact that they have a job and provide, their core values do not change.

Stereotypes

Television plays a huge role in stereotyping Latino women and a stigma is placed on them due to the roles certain Hispanic actresses play on television. How people are portrayed in television is important to understand because a large body of research has showed how unrealistic portrayals in television of social issues such as showing Hispanic women in traditional roles such as the maid will lead to limit on what women are perceived as capable of doing (Villegas, Valdez, & Lemanski, 2010). Stereotypes in Hispanic women tend to be negative at times. They can be stereotyped as having a lot of kids, submissive to their husband, not intelligent and religion (Catholic) plays a huge part of their culture. Another stereotype that Hispanic women face is being seen as emotionally unstable (Liang, Knauer-Turner, Molenaar & Price, 2016). It can be difficult at times to break that barrier of stereotypes in Hispanic women because of how they are consistently portrayed in the media. Due to the stereotypes Hispanic women are given, they have to work extra hard to break that stigma that people have of them. As times move forward many Hispanic women are accomplished many achievements and levels of education but those stereotypes are still there. The reason that these stereotypes still linger in Hispanic women can stem back to their core values. Hispanic women take their traditional values very seriously and even though many are accomplished and educated their core values remain the same. In national media Hispanic women can be stereotyped as either an uneducated domestic provider or portrayed as having modest professions such as a maid or fast-food clerk (Brown, n.a.). Therefore, the stereotypes will continue to remain as people of the outside culture portray them to be.

Mental Illness

Mental illnesses do not differentiate when it comes to Hispanics and the rest of the population. What may differ is how Hispanic women may cope when dealing with a mental illness. Due to the lack of awareness in the Hispanic culture many times women will go through life being untreated of their mental illness which can lead to potentially worsen. There is this stigma in the Latino community that many fear of being labeled as crazy but this is due to the lack of information they have not been exposed to (Nami.org, n.d.). Many Latino women are extremely private and fearful of what other may think or say about them and because of this they don’t seek the appropriate treatment they may need (Nami.org, n.d.). Many Hispanic women tend to suffer from anxiety and depression due to high stressor they may be experiencing in their lives. Latino women often refer to natural remedies when trying to alleviate the mental anguish they may be facing. For example, many times traditional Hispanic women will resort to seeking help with what they call a “curandero” a person who may use natural remedies to help them get rid of the mental state they may be in. Pina-Watson, Castillo, Ojeda & Rodriguez (2013) study found the following, “Mexican American women, Aranda et al found that participant adherence to traditional gender-role scripts was related to depressive symptoms. Another study on Latino high school students also found that traditional gender role beliefs was associated with higher levels of depression (page 2).” It is important for the counselors who are aware and have knowledge in the Latino community to raise awareness and remove the stigma that involves having a mental illness.

Best Practices

When applying traditional counseling theories it is important for counselor to understand that many times it may not work with a traditional Hispanic woman therefore, it is important for counselors to clearly understand their values and background in order to ensure the client returns. While this is not to imply that every Hispanic immigrant woman can or should be diagnosed, it does recognize the need for therapists to make a difference between true mental illness and psychological symptoms that are temporary in nature resulting from cultural modification to a new environment (Leon & Dziegielewski, 1999). Hispanic women are also susceptible to develop stress reactions which may result in pshychological problems that can potentially lead to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression (Leon & Dziegielewski, 1999). Many times Hispanic women are learning to find themselves in a new environment and they are trying understand how to adjust to the environment. It is important for the therapist to construct a model that is not extreme for them to handle since they are so dedicated to their family. An effective integration can be a healthier goal rather than acculturation or assimilation. According to Leon et. al., “One treatment modality that can be helpful to Hispanic immigrant women as they learn to cope with their new environments can also be seen as a mutual support group (as cited in Leon and Dziegielewski, 1984).” Hispanic women can be very supportive of one another therefore, an effective therapy practice can be establishing group therapy sessions. Once a Hispanic woman commits to receiving therapy services they value it and take it very seriously. They see it as a commitment (“compromiso”) they have to follow through with. Counselors are able to use these traits to their advantage because they will see their therapist as an authority figure and they have to abide by what they say. It is also important for counselor to set aside their own value system and fully go into the root of what these women may be experiencing. In terms of counseling techniques it is not only important to listen, understand and validate but also engage in the process of their issues and provide your own personal experiences. Hispanic women want to see and understand that they are not the only ones going through a struggle. Immigrant women are preoccupied with meeting survival needs typically experience challenges in partaking in a traditional insight-orientated therapy group (Leon & Dziegielewski, 1999).

Empirically Supported Relationship

A study was conducted to demonstrate the expectations of Mexican American women’s gender role beliefs, as characterized by marianismo, which may be seen positively by family members (Pina-Watson, Castillo, Ojeda & Rodriguez, 2013). Although affirmative observations will minimize parental conflict within the family unit but may lead a woman to a depressive state. According to Pina-Watson, Castillo, Ojeda & Rodriguez, “The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between marianismo beliefs on Mexican American college women’s depressive symptoms (2013).” This study involved young Mexican American women in a South Texas community. Evocative measurements including occurrences, means, and standard deviations were conducted (Pina-Watson, Castillo, Ojeda & Rodriguez, 2013). Research demonstrated that conflict among parents has a correlation that is effectively related to Mexican American college women in anguish. Also, a significant effect of marianismo and its beliefs significantly brought up symptoms of depression in women due to having conflict with their parents. The results suggest that members who held traditional Latina gender role beliefs were troubled because they experienced conflict with their parents due to the importance of “familismo” among the Latino culture and the belief of the “self-sacrificing Latina,” it makes logic that experiencing conflict with parents would negatively affect Mexican American women’s mental health (Pina-Watson, Castillo, Ojeda & Rodriguez, 2013).

Conclusion

In conclusion, mental health practitioners working with women of Mexican decent need to have the awareness of the negative effects traditional Hispanic parents can have on a women. It is also important to understand that women highly value their family dynamics and their lives revolve around family. A mental health professional needs to understand that family dynamics among Hispanics especially Latino families will never change. Counselors need to provide Hispanic women with their knowledge and tools in order to adjust their way of thinking without trying to take away their value system. In addition, when Latino women seek mental health services, assessing their gender role beliefs and the impact that they may have on the parent-child relationship can help give the therapist an understanding into the interactions that play a role of a women leading to her distress (Pina-Watson, Castillo, Ojeda & Rodriguez, 2013). Although many therapists may want to guide Latina women to break apart from their traditional roles and guide them to demonstrate to the man that they are equal to them, it can be a very difficult task at hand (Brown, 2013). Latina women need to prove and demonstrate not only to their family but to the Latino community their self-worth, intelligence and independence in order to eliminate the stigma that involves who they are portrayed as. Furthermore, Latinas need to speak up and stand up for what they believe in to their traditional Hispanic family first and foremost in order for them to reach that level of equality and independence.

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