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Hispanic Children

Definitions And Terms, Demographic Characteristics, Language, Acculturation And Biculturalism, Education And SchoolsCultural Values

The term "Hispanic" incorporates a diverse group of people comprised of individuals from a variety of countries and representing great diversity in socioeconomic status, age, history, and ethnicity. According to U.S. Bureau of the Census estimates for the year 2000, about 12 percent of the total population in the United States was Hispanic. While Hispanic people share a common language, they still represent a heterogeneous group of adults, children, and families living in various cities within the United States.

The diversity of Hispanic people underscores the difficulty in making generalizations about individuals. Because Hispanic children may differ in their attitudes and beliefs as a result of their families and their interaction with North American culture, it is important to not assume that all Hispanic children are the same. With this recognition, there are many cultural beliefs and practices, as well as elements of family structure and family roles, that are common to many Hispanic children and that can provide a better understanding of Hispanic children and their lives.

Each Hispanic family and individual is unique, but there are many cultural values shared by Hispanic children living in the United States. Beyond the common language of Spanish, many Hispanic families also share religious beliefs and practices. These beliefs, along with family structure, food and dietary customs, and certain traditional holidays and celebrations, form the cornerstone of Hispanic communities.

Religion and Spirituality

Hispanic families and individuals engage in various practices of spirituality, including formal religion and different folk religions. Historically, the common religion of Hispanic people was that of the Roman Catholic Church, and a large number of Hispanic children are still baptized as Catholics. Nevertheless, Hispanic children today represent a variety of denominations, such as Baptist and Methodist, as well as other religions, such as Judaism. Members of some Hispanic groups also practice folk religions, such as Santeria, Espiritismo, and Curanderismo. While the belief in spirits of deceased persons differs across Hispanic cultures, many children learn about beliefs by observing family or community practices, and often see the frequency with which saints, angels, and God are invoked by adults.


Hispanic families celebrate a variety of cultural holidays and events, and children often play a large role in these events. As religion is a foundation for many Hispanic families, a number of celebrations and festivities emerge from Catholicism, such as Christmas and Easter. In addition, many Hispanic families also celebratebautismos (baptisms), confirmaciones (confirmations), cumpleañ;os (birthdays), and quinceañeras (a rite of passage into adulthood for girls at age fifteen).


Just as there is a great diversity in Hispanic children, there is also a variety of Hispanic family types. Traditionally, Hispanic families are two-parent households with fathers as economic and legal leaders of the family. Within the United States, however, Hispanic children are also likely to grow up in a home with a single parent, usually a mother. U.S. Census estimates in 2000 suggested that single mothers led 24 percent of Hispanic households. In general, Hispanic families are relatively young, partly as a result of the high fertility rates for Hispanics, as well as migration rates (individuals who migrate tend to be younger, thus more likely to have children). The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the median age for Hispanic individuals in 2000 was twenty-seven.

Hispanic families are also likely to be larger than those of the general population. Indeed, in many Hispanic families, relatives such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, and also neighbors and friends, are often considered family and play a role in child rearing and care. It is through these extended families that Hispanic children often learn about family traditions and values and become part of communities of other Hispanics. The importance of family, both extended and immediate, is a value shared by most Hispanic individuals.

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 4