Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)



First Advisor

Frank M. Pelton


In this thesis there is presented a study of the disorganization of Portuguese immigrant families, which results from the interaction of their rather restrictive culture with the freer, American way of life. The study is developed through the analysis of the cases of ten Portuguese families which became disorganized in the United States.

The restrictive culture of the Portuguese Islands of the Azores which made their families so vulnerable in America is described in some detail. The lower economic status of the Portuguese, Azorean peasant is given some emphasis. Then there is a treatment of the oppressive factors of the Portuguese political structure. The Portuguese family with its patriarchal dominance and lack of individual identity is presented.

A careful search for helpful literature in the study of the disintegration of the Portuguese families in the United States was not too fruitful. There were some workers who gave aid in the presentation of the background of the Portuguese people and in their earlier attempts at orientation to the ways of the United States. However the major part of the study was carried on through a personal investigation of the cases of disorganized Portuguese families in the United States by the study of records of social agencies and by personal interviews.

From a large number of cases available for study ten were selected as the core of this thesis. These cases were selected in accord with the following criteria:

1. The completeness of the data available

2. The seriousness of the disorganization.

3. The position of respect formerly held by the family in the Portuguese community of which it was a part.

The first major group of cases emphasizes a release from a restricted and repressive religious pattern. The transition from the confines of a culture of one religion to a culture of many religions imparted a great strain upon the family structure of many of the Portuguese immigrants. The second group of cases involves the marriage of Portuguese persons with persons of other cultures. Portuguese culture demanded that the family select the mate. The American culture which surrounded the family upheld the right of the person to select his own mate. The selection of the mate was the symbol of the son's or daughter's revolt against family domination, a repudiation of the old restrictive culture, and an embracing of the new freedom. The third and last group of cases involves Portuguese persons who entered into illicit sexual relationships. In the enoiroling limitations of the Azorean culture the individual found little chance to stand forth as an independent personality. In the more liberal environment of the American culture some of them seized the chance to express themselves as persons and to seek satisfaction outside the family circle. This breaking of the bonds of the culture helped to bring about disorganization.

In an analysis of conclusions from these case studies, the individual personalities stand out as deviation from a transplanted cultural pattern. The variant conduct of the individual revealed itself as a product of conflict between widely different cultures. One of these, an old world culture; the other, a dominant and all embracing new world culture saying in effect, "adapt or die." In this titanic struggle some of the families involved are bound to be injured unless planned procedures are set up to help the people of the older culture to adapt to the new.



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