Change in Attitudes Beliefs and Practices Regarding Gender

Bimbi (1993) suggests that women born after World War II have embraced a different model of female identity than that of their mothers or grandmothers. The youngest group of women in her research felt that having children or obtaining educational qualifications were rights rather than duties or privileges. In general, attitudes to the roles of men and women in the family and to sexuality have changed very significantly and show clear departures from the position of the Catholic Church. This was evident in the public support for legislation facilitating divorce and abortion in the 1970s and for the changes in family law that have taken place since then. Responding to changes in the attitudes of the public and to organized public pressure, government has granted men and women greater equality not only in public life but in the private domain as well. Changes have taken place not only in legislation but in everyday practice. There have been shifts in parenting patterns, and the value placed on the education of girls has been increasingly placed on a par with the education of boys. However, limited work opportunities in many regions of Italy remain an obstacle for young people despite their impressive educational qualifications.

Changes in gender relations and in the experience and conduct of sexuality are also evident in trends regarding marriage and family size. Marriage rates and family size have declined, and Italy as a whole has registered zero population growth. However, there are important regional differences. Naples and the region of Campania have the highest rate of marriage, the highest average family size in the country, and the smallest increase in the number of illegitimate births.4 Whilst it remains important and valued, the family is changing in Naples and in Italy as a whole, and, with thus change, the contents of gender roles and the opportunities for men and women are shifting too (Calabretta, 2001).

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