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Revisiting the Definition and Concept of Filipino Family: A Psychological

Maria Caridad H. Tarroja
Filipinos have been described as family-centered, and families have been
observed to be closely-knit. Through the years, sociologists have studied the
composition, structure, values, and definition of Filipino Families. Several studies on
Filipino families have been made. A review of literature has been made through how
psychologists have defined Filipino families and most of them defined families in a
traditional way: composed of a father, a mother, and their biological children, and
extends to some paternal and maternal relatives. The challenge now for the
psychologists is to define the Filipino families beyond its current definition, inclusive
of non-traditional families, responsive to the changing demands of the changing
Philippine society.
In a sociological perspective, Filipino families value blood, marriage
relationships and biological ties are important that may extend up to distant
relatives. They have described Filipino family as nuclear in structure but functionally
extended. A Filipino family is also bilaterally extended kinship system that highly
values reciprocity. Parents provide childrens basic needs and later children took
care of their elderly parents. Members worked to keep ties alive whenever members
of the family are separated. The extended family serves as support for the family,
which could be a strength and weakness at the same time. A hierarchical structure
of authority in the family where obedience, nurturance of one another and conflict
avoidance are emphasized promoting cohesiveness and solidarity in the family.
Additionally, increasing number of overseas worker resulted to separation of
many families, phenomenon of working children, marital infidelity, and teenage
pregnancies. Though modernization is evident in the Philippines, families generally
remained closely knit and traditional with strong family relationship even when
members lived apart from one another. A study also showed that still Filipinos
considered family as very important to their lives, a child needed a home with both
parents to be happy, and disapproved on a woman having a child as single parent
without stable relationship, and disagreed that marriage as an outdated institution.
Nuclear family is still the basic building block of Filipino Families. A person can also
belong to ones family orientation and family of procreation. Nuclear families when
combined may produce compound or composite families, with recognitions of kin
relations, shared responsibilities, and maintenance of expressive and emotional
relations beyond nuclear family. Also, an increasing knowledge on non-traditional
families arises which members are not necessarily bound to legal marriage, blood,
or adoption which includes cohabiting couples, single parent households, childless
unions, dual career and reverse role families.
In a psychological perspective, family cohesiveness affected socio-political
issues. A tagasalo or the one who takes care of the family or comes to rescue of the
family or another family member arises in times of difficulty. A Filipino family was
also described as a system and resilient stemming from early experiences of being
nurtured. A study on women as OFW in families, feeling of sadness in the family, the

need of fathers for their new role, and children becoming the tagasalo of their
fathers. Societal changes such as global and urban migration, changing role of
women, political instability, violence and power of media made an impact on the
Filipino family. Psychological issues such as inculcating family values,
communication within the family and the world, strategies of developing childs
potential and dealing with tough times were presented. Family situations and
structure of Filipino family changes as time passes by.
A review of other psychologists published and unpublished articles of Filipino
family issues and concepts were also conducted. It was subdivided into four (4):
parent-related issues, children-related issues, family context, and societal issues.
On parent-related issues, studies on Filipino parents dealt mostly with
parenthood and parenting skills, parent-child and marital relations, and parent
experiences and traits. One study found out six covert dimensions for parenthood:
adequacy, positive, self-gratification, nurturance/affiliation as motives for having
children, anxiety, negative self-gratification, and disruptive influences of children as
deterrents to having children. Four father types among Filipino families were also
identified according to affective aspects of fathering and activity. An ideal father
was someone who was involved with his children but at the same time not too
controlling. Furthermore, a need for a generative father as representing the ideal
combination of concern and commitment. Parents have an important role in training
their children to be responsible and independent individuals. Maternal employment
effects on family members perception of the mothers sex-role concepts of the
children, and the attitudes towards working women. Employed women had the most
favorable attitudes towards working women, followed by unemployed women, and
by the men regardless of whether their wives were employed or not. Furthermore,
maternal employment did not affect mother-child variables of nurturance and
punitiveness, discipline, and independence training. Several factors that mitigated
the effect of maternal employment includes cultural factors and children treated as
the priority. Maternal employment was not seen as negative as long as the mother
were able to fulfill the responsibilities of a mother.
A study was conducted on the resilience of Filipino wives to spousal infidelity.
Problem solving skills combined with self-care, shopping, travel, becoming
economically independent, stopping complaints or blame, reaching out to others,
and filing civil and/or church annulment emerged. Another study was conducted to
look into the demographic, personality, family, and work variables which moderate
the experience of stressors and their consequences for Filipino working parents.
Both work and non-work stressors were positively significant related to physiological
and psychological strains. Solo parents were also found out to be the most
vulnerable to stress due to the absence of a spouse to buffer the burden of
parenting and household responsibilities. More reported stressors and strains was
also noted to employed parent with unemployed spouse.
On child-related issues, a study on the Filipino childrens perception of their
parents in terms of nurturance, punitiveness and power was made. Mothers were
noted to be more nurturing than fathers; and that Filipino mothers are expected to

take charge of raising their children which starts as soon after the babys birth.
Additionally, both parents were seen equally as agents of punishment toward their
children. Mothers know more about their adolescent childrens lives than fathers do.
Both mothers and fathers have biases in their observer ratings, judging their
children to be happier than they actually are, related to life satisfaction, for they are
both motivated to believe that their child is happier than he really is further
enhancing their view of the family as a whole. Filipino family has been characterized
in terms of absentee parenting and unstable marital unions as a result of options
taken by parents by pressure of changing environment such as migration. These
resulted to new forms of living arrangements making adolescents vulnerable to risk
behaviors. Impact of mass media as also seen as threat to traditional values. An
important factor in influencing lifestyle of adolescents is having a strong, stable and
intact family environment together with values and parental guidance. Another
study has also shown how Filipino adolescents valued connection, intimacy, care
and support.
In family context, a study on transnational families defined families with
different members living in at least two different countries. Material goods were
used to compensate maternal love and care to painful emotions such as pain and
feeling of guilt and loneliness. While children left often experienced loneliness,
insecurity, vulnerability and the desire for more intimacy with the mother. On a
study made on Filipino immigrants, it showed that Filipino-Americans had high level
of academic achievement but apparently scored low on self-esteem and higher on
depression. Children were seen as precious gift and thought to bring family
happiness, companionship, family, love and comfort in old age. They are expected
to be obedient and dependent. Problematic children are being sent to the relatives
in the Philippines. Nontraditional families emerged through time such as singleparent families. Single working mothers were found to have moderate adversity
quotients due to finances, lack of support from the father of their children, parenting
concerns, and work-family conflicts. Coping strategies includes spirituality, support
from family and friends, and leisure activities. Psychological security was
significantly greater in children with their fathers present than those of not. Both
groups have average grades but is significantly better in those with their fathers
present. Fathers availability only influenced the social adjustment of the
adolescents being significantly less submissive in those with fathers absent.
Adolescents in general were poor in emotional adjustment especially in girls with
their fathers present.
Disruption in families was due to abandonment, working abroad and death.
Greater self-acceptance was noted in adolescents from intact families but no
significant difference was noted in the level of security between two groups.
Apparently, no significant differences noted on the levels of self-acceptance and
security were noted based on the length of family disruption. However, the type of
support from non-custodial parents had a significant impact on the adolescents
evaluation of their mothers perception of their fathers.
Variations in family structure depended on the forms of marriage, types of
household structures, rules of descent and inheritance, and rules of residence and

connection, parental involvement, communication, family resiliency, care and
support and intimacy were important factors in keeping family together in general.
A Filipino family is described in terms of family members closeness, sense of
support, care, warmth and intimacy, and shared values and beliefs.
Filipino families are still nuclear in nature, mostly extended families. Members
are no longer limited to relation by blood, marriage, or adoption. Relationships can
either be biological, legal, or emotional. Living together in one roof or the physical
togetherness is not as important as emotional attachment. Marriage is not the only
path to forming a family, for family union varies among cultures, law of the society,
religious orientation, cultural norms, and informal expectations of family and
friends. An increase in dual-earner and dual-career marriage, emergence of
absentee parents due to overseas deployment, number of solo-parent families due
to marital separation, migration, illegitimacy, and adoption. Emergence of other
nontraditional families include step or blended families, siblings who have been
orphaned or parents in overseas, and childless couples. Thus a need to reconstruct
the definition of family is needed to include the different existing type of families,
which shall be based on empirical evidences. A challenge on researching deeply on
the Filipino families today has been recommended. As well as recognizing the
different types of families, to integrate differences in their difference of assessment
and interventions. Research have shown that Filipino family is not only defined by
its structure but on its emotional connection among family members, how the
relate, support and care for one another (Tarroja, 2010).