The Italian Family Then
and Now
To understand the changes
inside families we have made
use of the method of
interviews at three different
age ranges: seniors, adults
and young people.
The questions asked were designed
to find out the changes which have
taken place inside the Italian family
about education and traditional
The family from the seniors' point of view
In 1950, the typical Italian family was
composed of a big number of people.
The father was the head and he had an
authoritarian role.
Moreover he was concerned with the
financial management of the family and
used to work in the fields.
The woman ,on the contrary, used to
spend most of her time at home,
dedicating herself to the children's
education and to the housework.
The respect for the rules, values and
family traditions were handed down to
the children who, in turn, handed them
down to the next generations.
Marriage, in the family of
the 50s, had a sacred and
inviolable value, a union
for life based on love and
on the existence of a big
family with lots of
relatives and children.
Many women accepted
the tradition of wearing a
white dress, a symbol of
The family from the parents' point of view
The family of about 20 years ago appears to be
composed of fewer people than in the past.
The father’s role continues to be that of the
head of the family but he lets his partner
manage the choices regarding children.
The mother often works outside the house to
contribute to the family income.
The purpose of marriage is considered to be
independence from the original family.
It is a union for life based on respect and
sharing daily routines .
It is a very important value.
The family from the young generations’ point of view
Over the latest generations the
parents' roles have become the same.
Both parents work and contribute to
support the family. Sometimes the
woman has the say both in the
economic aspect and in the decisions
about children.
Marriage is only a formality, a simple
contract. Nowadays the living together
and the sharing of every-day routines
with the lover are very important.
But today, there is less
communication within
the family due to
computers and the
Most young people of the last decade are almost free.
The elderly
Italy is renowned for its family values, but
with one-fifth of the population now over
65 many Italians are outsourcing home
care for the elderly to immigrants.
In traditional Italian society, the elderly
and disabled lived with their families, and
were taken care of by their female
Today, families are often unable or
unwilling to look after their elderly, who
at the same time live longer and require a
greater care over a lengthier period of
Latest research suggests the number of Italians
in nursing homes is dropping despite the
number of over-65s increasing.
But dwindling family networks and fewer
women staying at home mean that many
Italians now depend on immigrants.
Families have become nuclear or
monoparental, and many of the things the
family did before, immigrant women do today
Figures from the National Social Security
Institute (INPS) indicate that most domestic
caregivers in Italy come from Ucraina,
Romania, the Philippines, Poland, Ecuador,
Moldova and Peru.
Foreign nationals represent an
essential "resource" for Italian
families "because they provide
excellent services in response to a
need for caregiving in an ageing
The close ties and familiarity generated by
caregiving can "boost the integration" of
people belonging to different cultures,
because prejudice is often a result of
ignorance, superficial interactions and lack of
in-depth contact.
Alessandra Busà,
Fabiana Chillemi,
Alessia Furone,
Arianna Gangemi

The Italian Family Then and Now