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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 4, No. 1
February 1999

Tips for Working with Hispanic Families

Following are suggestions to help you join with Hispanic families.

  • Avoid assumptions. Hispanics fall into many ethnic groups; many were born in the U.S., speak English, and lead a very "modern" lifestyle. Take the time to find out about each family's beliefs and values.

  • Understand traditional gender roles. Machismo can mean a nurturing, protective man as well as the stereotypical "tough guy." Women, too, contribute substantially to their families in traditional roles. Their connections with extended family can be especially important. However, don't generalize about gender roles.

  • Recognize the importance of family. Be willing to devote the time and energy necessary to meet as many members of the family as you can. Be ready to help families maintain their traditional family system, even in the face of great obstacles.

  • Understand the importance of agregado. Those related by marriage and very distant relatives are often significant connections. Don't overlook this valuable family resource.

  • Don't give offense. This seems obvious, but understand that clients may take offense if they feel you have insulted members of their famly, even slightly, even if you are trying to help. Recognize the importance of respect, honor, and courtesy. Honor cultural and family traditions.

  • Learn Spanish. You may fear clients may take offense if your Spanish is not very good, but this is unlikely. Simply making an effort is a sign of respect. However, if you cannot speak Spanish fluently, use a bilingual specialist. For tips on working with a translator, see "Guidelines for Working with an Interpreter".

  • Don't take offense if a family is uncomfortable with "Anglo" systems of care. There is pressure on immigrants to adopt the practices of the dominant culture, but doing so may cause a great sense of loss, and may be detrimental to their ability to function. Rather than adding to this pressure, find out how they have traditionally solved problems.


Day, J. C. (1997). Population projections of the United States by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin: 1995-2050. U.S. Bureau of Census, Current Population Reports, p 25-1130. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Harper, K. & Lantz, J. (1996). Cross-cultural practice: Social work with diverse populations. Chicago: Lyceum Books.

Mayo, Y. (1997). Machismo, fatherhood, and the Latino family: Understanding the concept. Journal of Multicultural Social Work, 5(1/2), 49-61.

North Carolina Geographic Date Clearinghouse [Online]. (1998). <>. (Web address no longer functional.)

Sotomayor, M. (ed.) (1991). Empowering Hispanic families: A critical issue for the 90s. Milwaukee: Family Service America.

Steinberg, M. (1998). Farm workers win early legal battle. The Prism, 9(7), 1-3.

1999 Jordan Institute for Families