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Family Values

Family bonds and values in Costa Rica are very strong. It’s sacred to Costa Ricans and is an important cultural aspect of the country. Children are treated with loving care by everyone in the family. Sometimes it may seem like the children are really spoiled, but Costa Ricans love to show their love and affection in every possible way.


The majority of children, no matter their age, are oftentimes not asked to do very much and are treated in a way that is sometimes disturbing for independent North Americans. For example, a mother may refer to her son as her "rey" or her "king." In some families foreigners have felt like the kids run the show and have no boundaries.

The average family seems larger than usual. Past generations were accustomed to having between eight and fifteen children. As the years passed, people started having smaller families with the average number between three to five. Nowadays, it seems like many families have now scaled down to only one or two children. This has happened simply because the lifestyle has changed. For one, not as many people own large farms they need worked by large families, and two, the cost of living has increased significantly making it nearly impossible to support a large family unless you are very well off.

However, families seem very large because extended families live very close together, and they frequently get together for special occasions. It’s important to mention that families generally socialize in a wider circles of families (cousins are considered immediate family). Families rely a lot on each other to get through day to day activities, and often ask for and return favors within the same family.

In North America for instance, when children turn 18 years of age, they commonly leave their houses and start living by themselves, but in Costa Rica most children live with their parents until they get married or finish their college degrees. Children who are grown up do not usually move out on their own until they get married, regardless of how old they are. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see families whose children are 30 and have not moved out. There is no negative societal view of this. Just the opposite is true. If a child leaves the house before they are married, it is very unusual and usually only happens if it is absolutely necessary for studies or if the family has very poor relationships. A reversal of this trend is in progress and more and more younger people are deviating away from this habit.

In families the vast majority of parents are still married. Divorce is a relatively new phenomenon in the country and only now is becoming acceptable and noted. It seems like the divorce rate is similar to that in the US for younger generations which is almost 50%. Also, you will see a lot of single mothers who were never married.

The desire of the average Costa Rican is to have a good job, get married and have a family to take care of. In married couples the husband and wife appear to have equal duties and rights. However, this is not to say that men and women are treated as equals. As in any other Latin American culture, there is a certain undertone of "machismo" or male dominance or superiority. This has been slowly changing and even most recently women have gained ground in politics.

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