Family and Kinship

Brazil Table of Contents

The Portuguese crown and ecclesiastical authorities in Brazil were not entirely successful in implanting their ideals with regard to marriage and the patriarchal family. Brazilians have limited enthusiasm for official norms and often resort to consensual unions, marital dissolution, serial unions, and what the Roman Catholic Church generally considers to be lax standards of behavior.

At the same time that many of them bend the rules, Brazilians place high value on family and kinship relations. These are especially valued in an environment in which authorities, on the one hand, and one's subordinates, on the other, are thought to be untrustworthy. Most Brazilians are genuinely fond of children and are attached to their parents, and they cultivate a wide circle of aunts, uncles, and cousins. In the past, relationships with godchildren, godparents, and ritual co-parents extended these networks, but they are losing their importance in modern urban society.

Marital separation and divorce as well as formal and informal remarriage are now commonplace. Women commonly head their own households, and families often include children from different marriages or unions. The new arrangements are socially accepted but have not become culturally institutionalized in the sense of devising new terminology for the various relationships.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress