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Italian Families: then and now

The stereotyped image of the large and traditional Italian families, with more than six children, is just an old memory. Here’s how the structure of the Italian family has changed.

Italian families

The last thirty years have dramatically changed the structure of Italian families. The traditional model of the old movies is gone. Here’s how the change happened.

Italian families: then

In the past, Italian families, especially those of the South, were made up of a lot of children. They were patriarchal units. So, women stayed at home while the men worked.

The changes have happened in the past century. In fact, the country went from an agricultural system to an industrial one. And the change wasn’t just in economics. Everything changed. The mentality, the culture, and the habits of Italian society. Hence, families changed.

The 1960s were just as crucial. That was the decade of the feminist movements. And Italy wasn’t exempt. Before, the Italian family model had been inspired and influenced by the Catholic church. After the 60s and 70s, that traditional system was crumbling. For example, the law on divorce happened in the 70s. So did the family law reform (1975) and the abortion law (1978).

Indeed, it was a change for both Italian families and women. All of these laws represented a defeat for the Vatican. The referendum on divorce proves it. In fact, 59.3% of Italians voted in favor. In 1981, there was another referendum, this time to abolish divorce. The result was even more surprising. Over 70% of Italians voted to keep it despite the words of Pope Paul VI.

The Pope spoke of the “temptations of devastating eroticism,” on importance of fruitfulness, and on the value of the sanctity of marriage. Still, he spoke to an Italian society that didn’t exist anymore.

italian families then and now
Italian Families then and now: between the 40s and the 60s my grandparents had 8 daughters. Of these, 6 got married and had one or two children (only the older had 3). Of the 11 grandchildren (and I – Katty – am one of them), 3 got married and 3 had one or two children (one is a single mum); 3, between 35 and 40 yrs old, still live with their parents

Italian families: now

Italian families tend to be smaller now. But that doesn’t mean that families ties aren’t strong or valued. On the contrary.

The average Italian family today is made up of one or or two children. Surveys and statistics carried out by ISTAT (Italy’s National Statistics Institute) show that there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of average members per family. This is due to three important factors:

  • reduction in the number of new births
  • decrease in the number of marriages
  • rise in the number of single-parent families

Additionally, another type of family is now widespread: reconstituted family. In this case, a member of the family commutes or lives away from the family.

The issue of aging

Italian Families

Image Above by Paolo Bendandi @paolobendandi
Italian Families

In the last few years there has been a considerable rise in the number of old couples. This trend has caused an imbalance between generations. Because the births of babies do not counterbalance the process of ageing. In fact, the rate of ageing in Italy is booming. Indeed, it is the fastest in growth worldwide. The number of couples aged 74-85 has increased steadily in the last few years.

Sure, the birth rate has been lowering. But foreign couples are giving it a boost. In fact, the number has risen, from 6% in 1995 up to 12% in 2004.

Modern models

The changing role of women has led to changes in the Italian families. Modern women want to work and they want equality. Both outside and inside the household. Patriarchy is a thing of the past. So, new types of families have born. These are families of single parents, unmarried couples, and couples without children.

For example, the increase in the number of singles equals 25.9%. While couples without children have risen by 19.8%. Furthermore, the number of couples with children (39.5%) and big families (5.1%) is decreasing.

Why do Italians decided to marry later or to not marry at all?

Here are a few reasons, according to ISTAT.

  • Education and its expenses
  • Lack of economic independence
  • Lack of steady jobs

All of these factors caused a delay in the age of procreation too. In fact, Italian women usually have their first child at 30.8 years old, as ISTAT statistics show, compared to the other mothers of Europe who generally have their first child between 26 to 30 years of age. Moreover, there is a substantial increase in the number of families made up of a single parent; they amount to two millions, 83.6% of which are run by women.

From all these data it emerges that it is not possible to classify the Italian family under a single category any longer. Next to the traditional model of family, which has dominated for ages, there now coexist new models of families that express the economic and social changes Italy has gone through in its recent history. As the world and the norms continue to change, the family structures are likely to change with them, and new models of families will continue to emerge.

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4 years ago

if you want to search about a family last name please look up the last name here https://www.paginebianche.it for Italian phone number lookups

Derek Murphy
4 years ago

if anyone has any information about the LOSA/MAGNER family in PUNTIDA, BERGAMO, LOMBARDY I would be pleased to hear from them.Thank you

Carol Ann Keeling
5 years ago

I’m related to family s in the 1800 Ascolillo, Lucatorto , Marjolies, Marinella,Roberto, Siciliani,Ciarmela,Fattibene Speremilla,,and de Letizia many more. I’m having trouble finding birth and death rates to line up grandparents from all generations in order to know the correct order I’m finding it very difficult next when I think I have it in order another spouse is there and all kind of children,and what makes it more trying they have the same names!!!!!