"Welcome to the family Madrigal!"
Family plays a central role in the life of Mirabel in Disney’s latest hit movie “Encanto.” The film features the multigenerational Madrigal family, who live together in an enchanted casita in Colombia. For Mirabel, enduring family ties are both an asset and a source of stress throughout the movie.
If “Encanto” had been set in the modern-day United States, would we see Mirabel, a Latina youth, show such strong connections to her family? Prior research indicates American teenagers who are Mirabel’s age begin to pull away from family as they spend more time alone, with peers, and away from home.
But new research from BYU professor of family life Jocelyn Wikle and University of California, Santa Barbara professor Elizabeth Ackert suggests that Mirabel would have a strong family connection even if she lived in the U.S.
“One core Latin American cultural value is familismo; the idea that dedication and loyalty to family should be a top priority for each family member. We see that play out in the movie and in our research. Latino teens spend more time each day with parents and siblings than teens from other racial or ethnic groups spend with their family members,” said Wikle. “Just like Mirabel, we find that family is a major part of life for Latino girls in the U.S.”
The study, which was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, explored the amount of time Latino youth ages 15-18 in the U.S. spent with family members and compared results to those of teenagers in other ethnic groups in the same study. The results indicate that Latino youth spend significantly more time with family than teens from other ethnic groups spend with their families.
“Latino youth spent about 163 minutes per day with a parent,” noted Wikle. “This is higher than teens in other ethnic groups. Time spent with siblings was also higher for Latino youth.”
The researchers say these findings have important implications for understanding family dynamics among Latino youth. In “Encanto,” many young female characters struggle to flourish amid pressure (“like a drip, drip, drip that will never stop”) to meet family expectations. Today’s Latino youth may face similar internal challenges.
“To address struggles of tension in family expectations, parents should try and foster open communication to build understanding and resolve stress on children,” said Wikle.
In other words, families should “talk about Bruno.”
The research validates the importance of family and the role it plays in helping members find a sense of belonging. Families with strong connections generally have lower family conflict and lower adolescent-parent conflict (“free hugs; bring it in, bring it in”).
“The movie “Encanto” creates an opportunity for parents of teenagers to recognize and address difficulties faced by teenagers in families while celebrating the value teenagers bring to families.”