Family, values and couple pathways in Italy

Abstract dell’articolo di Giovanna Rossi “Famiglia, valori e percorsi di coppia in Italia” apparso su LEGAMI IN CAMBIAMENTO E NUOVE FAMIGLIE – anno 2013 n 1.

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This contribution aims to provide a thorough reflection on the heterogeneity of cultural models and the variability of the family forms (pluralisation) that characterise contemporary society and therefore are also affecting the cultural and social context of Italy.

Such a transformation is best understood by referring to cultural models currently ranging from those stressing individualisation as the reason behind the plurality of family forms to more recent interpretations based on relationships and the concept of relationality and developing a theoretical approach antithetical to the dominant individualisation thesis, thus allowing the family’s morphogenesis and its underlying relationality to emerge.

This article presents the results of the European Values Study 2008 (, a large-scale, cross-national, longitudinal survey research program on basic human values. Findings concern the fourth wave of surveys, involving 47 countries and focused on an Italian sample consisting of 1,519 persons.

Through a reflection on the morphogenetic process of the family based on the above data it is possible to reconstruct and analyse some patterns of couple formation/dissolution in Italy, focusing on the currently married; separated/divorced with prior cohabitation; separated/divorced who currently live together; live-in partners; unmarried (singles), LAT – living apart together.

The carried out analysis allows the understanding of the complex and wide-ranging transformations that have affected not only family structures and the couple formation process but also the meaning and values associated with the family itself.

A strong dividing line is apparent between the married couples and all the other pathways as to the religiosity issue: the married couples tend to define themselves as religious, whilst the cohabiting ones tend to define themselves as non-religious or atheistic.

Considering the data set in a diachronic comparison whit regard to the question of how attitudes to values changes with time, Italians consider the family as the fundamental value (91% attribute much importance to it; this figure is the same as in 1999 and slightly above that detected in 1990), marriage still a valuable institution for the 76% of Italians (i.e., one percentage point above the European average of 75%) and, between pathways considered, the family emerges as very important above all in the view of the married couples, immediately after are the unmarried in a stable couple relationship, then those cohabiting, the unmarried and finally (over 10 percentage points below average) the separated/divorced. Work has priority for the cohabiting couples and the separated/divorced, respectively 10 and 7 percentage points above average. The friends’ network is primarily important especially for the younger subjects, that is, the unmarried (in and outside stable couple relationships), whilst it seems definitely less relevant to the married couples (below the 5 percentage point average).

In conclusion, the Italian data show, in accordance with Pollini’s findings, the presence of a morphogenetic and differentiating process as to pathways and couple choices; this process relies neither on forms of hyper-modernisation nor on sheer traditionalisation but, rather, on a mixture of needs: to keep family identity and its founding values on the one hand, and to differentiate and define relationships on the other (Pollini G. 2011 Il valore della famiglia e del matrimonio tra individualizzazione e solidarietà, in Rovati G. (a cura di), Uscire dalle crisi. I valori degli italiani alla prova, Vita &Pensiero, Milano).