Youth takes the floor
Federica Araco - 19/03/2010
Elisabetta doesn’t think about marriage, at least not for now: she prefers to dedicate herself to her career. She is 26 years old and she knows what she wants: “I tackle the future with a short term timing. I’m just can’t and I don’t feel secure enough to think big like for example a house or a family”, she adds.
In Italy, very few are those who decide to get married and those who do, postpone the age for marriage1. The socio-cultural transformations of the past thirty years have radically changed the relationship between new generations and “traditional values”, including the family.
Marco considers it as: “a fundamental social institution”. But in spite of his thirty-one years old, he considers marriage to be still far away. “In general – he says – I believe it has very little to do with the relationship between the couple. However, I do think about paternity sometimes. I would love to become a father. Not now, for sure, what could I give to my child? But I would be a very attentive parent: I believe in the value of education. And I can boast of my quadruple experience as an uncle, and that’s not to be taken for granted”.
Rachele is a twenty-five year old from Tuscany who has decided to be a housewife. She is very attached to her family of origin, even now that she’s married and she has a little girl. “I help as I can, making sure that my husband, my house and especially my daughter miss nothing. For me, wedding is a special gift and maternity is the most emotional experience in my life”.
Sarah is 27 years old and studies in Rome. She has a very critical approach to tradition: “in my opinion, the values that are transmitted tend to be highly conservative hiding a certain prejudice and mistrust towards all that doesn’t come under the ‘prescriptions’ that it pretends to impose. Especially in Italy, there is a tendency to confuse them with ‘moral values’ “. Federico is a Roman musician, nearly thirty years old. “I don’t believe in the family”, he says. “My parents are separated and maybe this has made me consider marriage as an outdated institution, at least in it’s classical meaning. And for me, it’s not time to think of paternity yet”.
Laura is Sicilian and she’s 28 years old. She believes in the family but, like a lot of her peers, she’s more into cohabitation than marriage. This is confirmed by the data reported by the state: premarital cohabitations are constantly increasing and several couples choose to cohabit rather than get married. The phenomenon concerns the whole country, but in certain regions the situation is more mitigated. In the South and on the Islands, marriage is a social institution that is still quite radical and generally, the spouses’ average wedding age is inferior when compared to that of those in the Centre and in the North. The number of civil weddings is also noticeably increasing, partly due to the increase in ‘mixed’ unions and second marriages. The World in Figures 2010, published by the Economist, reports 4.4 marriages and 0.8 divorces per 1000 inhabitants.
Flavia is less than 30 years old and has been living with her boyfriend for five years. “In my family, they are almost all divorced. How can I believe in marriage?” she says ironically. “When I told my parents that I was going to cohabit, they didn’t disagree. However, in spite the fact that they have been separated for over twenty years, I felt that they would have preferred something more ‘traditional’. Isn’t it incredible?” She continues: “I am happy with my choice: living together, you can get to know your partner deeply and test the relationship in a concrete way. I don’t understand how people can still get married ‘without even trying!”
As for religion, opinions are quite different. According to a Eurispes survey (2006), 87.8% of Italians declare to be catholic and 36.8% are devout. 22.4% of the youngsters interviewed (between 25 and 34 years old) declare attending mass every Sunday. Nevertheless even in Italy, like in many Western countries, the process of secularisation is increasing, especially among young people.
Some of them, like Giada (30) and Rachele (25), call themselves “believers, but not very devout”. Greta, a 19-year-old Tuscan has been brought up in family where traditional values, like religion, are fundamental “not only for oneself but also to be well with others”. “Religion has no space in my life”, declares Diego, twenty-one years old, from Bolzano, “however, the family is extremely important. I believe in its values and I would love to build my own”. Davide, 27, has a personal religious dimension that is not founded on “the old rules imposed by the Vatican’s hierarchy”. For Marco religion seems like “an insurmountable wall between different cultures and peoples. I prefer to speak of ‘faith’ rather than religion that is very often reduced to the system of rites and hierarchies imposing a certain order of ideas”.
If the relation to tradition is often conflicting, the young generations’ approach to modernity is attentive, curious and generally positive.
Sarah studies digital communication. “I have chosen a way that obliges me to be always updated in terms of social and technological evolution. However, I’m quite critical regarding globalisation. I believe it pretends to standardise not only economy but also life styles and ideologies. And it is translated into a flattening of cultural and social diversity. The crossing of barriers should be intense in a positive sense and from a relational point of view. However this objective is considered to be secondary to the enormous economical interests at stake, like those of multinationals”. Federico is convinced that transformations are only apparent. “I don’t see any real deep changes”, he says. “The new is always scary and is emarginated. Before succeeding to penetrate and be understood, there’s still a long way to go. I still believe that a major openness will make us better individuals”. Marco has a contradictory relation to modernity: “Certain sides of it fascinate me and I invest a lot of hope. There are others that scare me because they can hide a lot of socio-cultural dangers. But it has always been likewise. Very often, we tend to demonize new technologies, such as the Internet, as if an instrument itself was able to impress a cultural, social or political value to reality. It’s always the one who uses the instrument that makes the difference.
What about their projects for the future? “I hope to have a little house, a partner and to be able to do a job that will give me the possibility to train my brain, to be attentive and creative… and above all, that enables me to pay my bills and travel every now and then”, says Federico. Sarah would love to have a child, or more and hopes to fulfil herself emotionally and professionally “not necessarily in Italy”. Laura prefers not to think that much and to continue, “living day by day”. Marco proposes sarcastically: “let’s meet in ten years time…”
Translated into English by Elizabeth Grech
1. According to the State, in Il matrimonio in Italia: un’istituzione in mutamento (Marriage in Italy: a transforming institution) (2007), in general women get married between 28 and 30 years old and men after 32.