Dominican Immigrant Family Structures

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Dominican Family Structures & Dynamics


Father is the provider and the head of the family. Children generally learn from their mother because they get exposed with their mothers the most. This is a typical old-fashioned family structure that can be found in Dominican immigrants. To Dominicans, family is the most important thing. If a child has drug problems, unlike Americans, the whole family from uncle to cousin will help. "If a child does something extreme, parents will deny no matter what because they have a strong faith in their children," says Madeline Caraballo, one of Dominican CCNY students.

Gender Role (Dominican Republic vs. After immigration to America)

Dominican Republic is a male-dominating country, like a lot of other countries in the world like the USA(Dominicans are less exposed to idea of equality of course). There exists a thing called Machismo, which tells boys to be unemotional and be bluntly manly. To males it is machismo to have more than one girl, and they are allowed to be sexually active before marriage unlike girls. According to Madeline Caraballo, for boy’s first sex, father will help them out and even employ a whore for their children’s first time if they have a trouble having sexual activities. On the other hand, father will be overprotective and will not allow their daughter to go out of track thus it is easier for females to focus on their academic and finish their education. Father is usually the head of family, and wives have to make sure that they make food for husbands when husbands come back from the work. In some cases, children are to help father taking off shoes when he comes back. The difference caused from migrating to America is that it is normally the case for husbands alone not to be able to support their family economically. Both women and men struggled to survive in the new country, and it gave more power to women.[1] Due to male's "manly" activities, single headed family is normally led by females. On-going assmilation due to the differences in culture is one of the main reasons why such difference emerges.

Family Structure
Married Couple 30 27.3%
Single female headed 26 23.6%
Single male headed 2 1.8%
Extended family 24 21.8
Single person 15 13.6%
Unrelated persons 13 11.8%
Sex of Household Head
Male 50 48.1%
Female 54 51.9%
Source:Jorge Duany[2]

Change in Family Structure

In Dominican Republic, people tend to live with one big family. Usually the eldest will be the head, then all the other extended family will come below and interact. Female is always below male when they are in the same level. When they come to the U.S., it is hard to live with extended family because of economic reasons. So they have no choice but to form an atomic family structure. Most Dominican immigrants come to the major cities, especially Washington Heights in New York City, and this housing pattern prohibits them from living together.


  1. Silvio Torres-Saillant and Ramona Hernandez The Dominican Americans (1998)
  2. Jorge Duany Quisqueya on the Hudson: The transnational Identity of Dominicans in Washington Heights 2nd Edition CCNY:Dominican Studies Institute