Italy Vs United States: Family and Social Structures

In Italy, as in many parts of the world, social structures and norms have changed dramatically over the last 20 years. The stereotype of the large Italian family is no longer true as Italy now has one of the lowest birthrates in the world. Most of the newer population in Italy comes from immigration. In the U.S. large families are still the norm especially in the Midwest and the Southern states.

Traditionally Italians embraced the concept of extended families more than Americans. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins always played an important role in the everyday life of Italians than in most parts of the United States. In both countries the divorce rate is at an alarming percentage as divorce has become the norm. With the increase in divorce rates we have seen a change in the family landscape in both countries with families that are made up of single parents or various step parents and siblings. It seems fair to draw a correlation between the demise of the classic Italian family into an urban isolated family.

The increasing number of working women has impacted family structures and gender roles. In Italy and the United States women are often juggling family roles with a career. Society in general has become fast paced, something newer to Italy than the United States. This leads to less time spent together as a family and instead reserving meals for the few special days and holidays. Many are also finding that weddings and funerals are the most common times that extended families find themselves together.

Other social unions such as gay marriage continue to be worked on in both countries. Italy has tried to regulate gay marriage while states in the U.S. have legalized marriage between spouses of the same gender. In a heavily religious country like the United States and in a country with firm roots in Catholicism these changes are often complicated to navigate.

The traditional Italian family has always been headed by the male figure (capofamiglia), and although the power was only on paper it gave a lot of meaning in the overall family relationship. Today that concept seems to be obsolete although it is still legally present. One custom that Italians have, that is different than the United States, is women keeping their maiden name. Some Italian women are now giving their children their maiden names although that is still rather uncommon.

 

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