In every culture, families have initial responsibility for socializing their children. It is the duty of the family to furnish at least minimal conditions for their offsprings’ physical survival and psychological, intellectual, and social development. The structure and basic value system of Brazilian families have been weakened by repeated economic crises and the social transformations associated with development. Since the “economic miracle” of the 1970s, Brazil’s economy has undergone successive recessions that have impoverished the wage-earning classes.
Such drastic economic and social changes have had a profound effect on the socialization of all Brazilian children. Schools, responsible for shaping citizens and preparing children for entry into the economy, have assumed some of the socialization functions previously performed by the family. But Brazilian schools are unable to perform satisfactorily their traditional duties to mold citizens and workers.
How does Brazilian society fill these gaps? This chapter focuses on the role of the government and civil society, especially the roles of families, the schools, nongovernmental organizations, and street educators in fostering the development and socialization of children. We examine the ways in which recent Brazilian laws have attempted to support the actions taken by government and nongovernment organizations to socialize and protect children and adolescents. We point out the structural and transitory factors that influence these processes and, in the final analysis, also reinforce Brazilian social inequalities because they fail to address their underlying causes.
The patriarchal family, organized around large landowners, constituted the foundation of economic and political power in Brazil, not only during the colonial and imperial periods but also in the early days of the republic. Patriarchal families brought together under one roof a husband, wife, sons, daughters, lineal and collateral blood relatives, as well as godchildren and others who had been accepted into the family. In this model, paternal power over all family members was absolute and was exercised in an authoritarian fashion.