Hispanic Priorities: Marriage, Family and Youth

Hispanics place a high value on family, naming it as the most significant contribution Latinos make to American society today. Additionally, the perceived challenges facing their children often drive energy and frustration within Hispanic communities, which end up driving political and social agendas.

Views on Families and Marriage

Given the high value placed on the issue of family, it’s not surprising Hispanics take a socially conservative view of family on many counts. Almost eight in 10 (78%) agree family is the basic building block of a healthy community; seven in 10 (69%) agree a child is better off if he or she has married parents; two-thirds (66%) agree with the “traditional definition of marriage”—that it is between one man and one woman; and six in 10 (60%) agree sex should take place in the context of marriage. These are socially conservative viewpoints, and they generate majority support within the Hispanic community.

Hispanics’ generally conservative view of family issues extends to divorce and separation as well. When asked about legitimate grounds for divorce or permanent separation, the top two acceptable reasons were adultery (70% agree) and abuse (68% agree). Lack of mutual love was the only other reason that garnered support from more than half of Hispanics, with 53% agreeing this was an acceptable reason for divorce.

These fairly traditional views bend just a little on the issue of single parenthood and abortion. While most Hispanics agree a child is better off with a mom and a dad who are married, most (71%) also agree there is nothing wrong with an unmarried woman having a child. They are more or less opposed to her aborting that child if she were not ready to be a mother: Only 21% agree she should have an abortion instead of having an unwanted child. Yet overall, Hispanics are evenly split on the issue of abortion—the same percentage (46%) of Hispanics think abortion should be legal in most or all cases as think it should be illegal in most or all cases (the remaining 8% aren’t sure of their views). The extremes are the same size, too—one in five (20%) Hispanics think abortion should be legal in all cases, and the same percentage thinks it should be illegal in all cases.

Challenges Facing Hispanic Youth

With families as such a high priority for Hispanic communities, the issues facing children and youth are extremely important to Hispanics. When asked to rank the challenges Hispanic youth face, respondents named the following three as the “very big problems”: high school dropout rates (63%), drugs and alcohol (62%), and teen pregnancy (61%).

The second-tier problem is gangs; 58% of Hispanics say gang violence is a very big problem for Hispanic youth. Third-tier youth problems are spiritual development (48%), pornography (47%), and a lack of male role models (46%).

Who or What Influences the Next Generation?

When it comes to the various “influencers” impacting Hispanic youth, most Hispanics say relationships are the predominant source of impact. At the top of the list, two-thirds of Hispanics say parents and family (66%) impact the lives of Hispanic youth “a lot,” followed by friends (62%). Other sources of relational influence on Hispanic youth include teachers, educators and coaches (43%) and gangs (41%).

In terms of media and cultural influences, social media and Internet figure into the top three perceived influences, with almost half of Latinos (49%) saying this has “a lot” of influence over Hispanic youth. This was followed by video games (40%), movies and television (38%), and popular music (38%). It is interesting to note that “newer” forms of media—digital, social, and interactive gaming—are perceived to be stronger influences than “older” formats, such as television, movies and music.

Role of Churches in the Lives of Youth

Hispanics rank Christian influencers—church programs for children and youth (35%) and Bible (29%)—as last on the list of perceived influences. Hispanic adults do not generally give high marks to churches when it comes to “addressing the unique challenges facing Hispanic youth.” Only one-fifth of Hispanics (21%) think churches in their communities are doing “very well” addressing the challenges faced by Hispanic youth. Even among Protestants and Catholics, there are still relatively few who would say their local churches are doing very well in this area (23% and 24%, respectively). However, when it comes to their own children and grandchildren, Hispanics are more optimistic about the influence of their local church. About half of parents with kids at home (52%) and about three-fifths of grandparents (58%) say the church is very important to their own children who live with them, or to their grandchildren.

To read more about Hispanic Americans’ views on marriage, family and youth, order a copy of the Hispanic America: Faith, Values & Priorities study.

Find out more about the survey and methodology.