Abstract: The Genealogy of Famililsm: A Systematic Review (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

443P The Genealogy of Famililsm: A Systematic Review

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Raymond Sanchez Mayers, Ph.D., Assoc. Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Laura Curran, PhD, Associate Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Laura Cuesta, PhD, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Fontaine H. Fulghum, MSW, PhD, Consultant, FHFulghum
Background and Purpose:

Hispanics[1] make up approximately 20% of the United States (U.S.) population. While a large, diverse group, they share some common features such as the Spanish language, a history of colonialism, and discrimination within the host society. Hispanics as a whole experience higher poverty and food insecurity than non-Hispanic Whites while simultaneously fighting centuries of racism. This creates a need for cultural sensitivity on the part of social workers and other human services workers in order to more effectively serve this population. One aspect of cultural sensitivity is understanding Hispanic values.

Over the last 70 years, there has been literature regarding one of these espoused cultural values, that of familismo, or the high emphasis on family for family members. Familismo may be defined as obligation to family before others, sacrifice for family, and the supremacy of the family in decision-making. In this paper, we examine major studies and scales developed to measure familismo in order to refine this concept as it relates to Hispanic populations.


We conducted a systematic search of articles and books using the construct of familism. Our review included literature from the 1940s to the present. We included books and peer-reviewed journal articles and excluded dissertations, conference papers, and news articles. In each study, we examined the origin and content of the familism scale, the sampling method and sample size used, tests of reliability, and validity. We also examined the similarities and differences among these scales.


We found 22 different scales in 127 articles and books purporting to measure familism. Few of these multiple scales have captured the multidimensionality of familismo, some have examined behavioral aspects, others attitudinal ones. A few have attempted to combine behavioral and attitudinal indices. Even though many of the studies tested for reliability, not many were tested for validity, although it seems face validity of the instruments was understood in a number of cases. Moreover, most studies have used small, non-random, non-representative samples, comprised mostly of Mexican Americans, without representing the larger Hispanic population. Many have been done with adolescents, not adults.

Conclusions and Implications: [description of the main outcome(s) of the study and implications for practice, policy, or further research.]

The Hispanic population of the United States was estimated to be over 59 million people in 2019. This population comes from 20 different countries with distinctive characteristics of their own. It is a questionable assumption that all of them share a cultural value that is based on small non-random studies of mostly Mexican Americans. Before this “cultural value” is ascribed to all Latino/a/x individuals, new, better controlled measures need to be developed to capture the nuances of the culture regarding this concept using more representative samples. A more nuanced understanding of familism has implications for both practice and policy.

[1] The terms Hispanic and Latino/a/x are used interchangeably in this abstract given the prevalence of the term Hispanic in the historical literature. The authors recognize larger debates around these terms.