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Cultural Assessment


Nursing implies understanding of a lot of personal and cultural traits inherent to an individual or a group of people. A competent family nurse should be knowledgeable and tolerant towards different types of families she might work with. These social defining skills are essential for providing the services which fit the needs of a family in the fullest measure. Motion picture My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) presents an interesting model of family relations applicable to nursing.

Description of Movie Family

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The Portokalos are a very peculiar family proud of their national heritage. They live in a quiet “middle class Chicago neighborhood” and have practically no social relations outside their closed Greek community which consists of relatives only. Every family within this community owns a small business, they constantly interact and help each other. Descriptions of the setting come from the viewpoint of Toula, the protagonist of the film, who was raised in a Pantheon-like house, went to Greek school and in general felt the influence of her ethnicity throughout all her life. Decision-making in the family is clearly defined by her mother with the help of an old maxim: “the man is the head, but the woman is the neck”. However, the hostess never lets her husband feel ruled or undervalued, which reveals genuine love and respect within the relations of the couple.

Assessment of Culture and Ethnic Traits

Portokalos family values are closel connected with their national heritage and are formulated clearly by the father: “Greek girls should marry Greek boys, make Greek babies and feed everyone”. In fact, practically every problem can be solved with the help of “eating something” and applying some Windex. The latter seems to be a panacea for all diseases. A national way to attract health and beauty to a person is spitting, and this old prejudice is practiced even during a wedding ceremony. Reared with an implanted conviction that Greeks are the smartest and greatest nation in the world, Toula feels somewhat overwhelmed by the surplus of national culture around her. Gus puts all efforts into raising his kids being proud of their nationality. Moreover, the straightforward father tells Toula that “she starts to look old” in her 30 and is concerned that she will never marry a decent Greek man. Such pressure, strict rules of life and banning of freethinking dictated by uptight Gus Portokalos urges her to change her life. As one may see, education is not a priority for a Greek woman, and Toula tries to change this stereotype. Gus Portokalos got used to being in charge and controlling the life of his children, so he perceives these changes as a very distressing thing and sees the presence of Ian, a non-Greek boyfriend in his daughter’s life, as an invasion. Thus, cultural assimilation is deemed as an impossible thing, as an American fiancé is accepted only after being baptized in a Greek Orthodox Church.

Assessment of Development or Functional Competence

Family assessment can be conducted with the help of the theoretical perspectivves presented in the book by Friedman, Bowden and Jones. One of them, which is applicable in this case, is Beavers Systems Model. The Portokalos are severely inflexible and unwilling to change the inner structure of relations. This is a sign of low adaptability. The Portokalos are also highly centripetal, as all of the problems are solved only within the circle of relatives (Beavers and Hampson, 2000). Thus, functional competence of this family can be defined as midrange, with domineering and controlling patterns, as well as the wish to self-realize beyond the family limits expressed by Toula Portokalos and later her younger brother Nick.

Summary and Conclusion

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The Portokalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a family whose social characteristics are tightly connected with their ethnicity. They live in a closed kin community where everyone feels the right to intrude in other person’s life. They have strong beliefs about the way a family should be run and children reared passed from generation to generation. There are no secrets and privacy within this Greek community, and xenophobia is revealed when an American tries to become a family member.

Thus, ethnic background in the family defines the nature of relations within it. Non-acceptance of cultural assimilation, obvious cultural imposition, stereotyping and presence of strong beliefs, including the ones connected with children upbringing and health issues, as well as severe parental control and disregard of an individual, give grounds to assess the Portokalos as midrange. All these characteristics are relevant in terms of family nursing.

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