How Anomie affects the Latino Community

Social work with Latino families has been described as “complex.” Cultural aspects have been identified as one of the components needing regard to address family issues especially in the area of family or intimate partner violence. Since I am a fourth generation Puerto Rican descent born in Hawaii, I’m intrigued with how the largest minority group living within the United States deal with the issue of domestic violence.

I worked in a temporary shelter for battered women for over 10 years, and assisted women from 38 different countries including Africa,  Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East to name a few. All of the women and children had different cultures, traditions and beliefs. Imagine living together within the same home for four months up to a year; with different dietary requirements, parenting styles, languages as well as their own cultural problems and issues. Why is this information important? Because violence has no boundaries.

How Anomie affects Latino Community

The Latino culture has unique factors that determine the services and resources that battered women, children exposed to domestic violence, and abusive partners need (Cancino et al, 2007).  Furthermore, current research reports significant differences in the nature and severity of the Latino verses non-Latino intimate violence experience which exemplify why there is a need for a more holistic community-level approach in reducing anomie (defined as feelings of meaninglessness, separation and isolation) and violence.  Anomie is considered a contributing factor of violence, especially when society is on an economic decline.  It is important for the service provider to understand the dynamics and the effects of anomie, as well as personal constructs (personal beliefs about life, the world and others) in order to concentrate on cultural diversity in decreasing crime and violence within our communities.

Implications for Social Work with Families

Whether the cause of Domestic violence is from personal, structural or institutional anomie, these problems will continue to escalate without a concentrated effort from all sectors of society. We must address the issue of violence; the growth of anomie or decline in our communities and construct our own meaning of these social problems. By shifting from violence response to violence prevention mode, I believe communities will be able to develop adequate service strategies to prevent violence.

Sharleen Andrews, LMSW


            Burgess-Proctor, A., DeJong, C. & Elis, L. (2008). Police officer perceptions of intimate partner violence: An analysis of observational data. Violence and Victim. 23(6), 683-695. doi: 10.1891/0886-6708.23.6.683.

            Bryant, L. (2012). The Anomie Theory in Education. Retrieved on 4/29/12

Cancino, J.M., Enriques, R., Schafer, S.P. & Varano, S.P. (2007). An Ecological Assessment of Property and Violent Crime Rates Across a Latino Urban Landscape: The Role of Social Disorganization and Institutional Anomie Theory. Western Criminology Review 8(1), 69–87.

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