Husband Wife Relationships

Parsons' work in the 1960s combined anthropological and psychological approaches to the study of family structures of the poor neighborhoods of Naples. She suggested that, here, economic conditions undermined the authority of adult men as heads of a family. Families were thus strongly matrifocal and the mother's influence had quite specific consequences for the kind of gender identities that were learnt in the context of family life. One of the most significant consequences was the enduring bond between parents and children, especially mother and son, which lasted well into adulthood. The strong attachment of adults to their family of origin made the creation of a new family unit extremely difficult. Characteristically, conflict between husband and wife would maintain a distance between them and reinforce the tendency to invest emotionally in the children rather than the spouse (Parsons, 1967). Thirty years on from Parsons' research, many couples interviewed in Naples claimed that the most important focus of their emotional lives was their children. A number of the men interviewed stated that their love for their children surpassed their love for their partner. Many women would agree with this view, although the comparison might not be made so bluntly.

However, the quality of relations between husband and wife varied considerably, depending on the background and life experience of each of the partners. In a number of married couples the wife would defer to her husband on matters of politics or other "public" issues. However, they retained full confidence in their superiority in the domestic sphere and could derive considerable delight from their husband's shortcomings in this field. In couples where both partners had experience in the field of work or politics, the emphasis was on equality of participation and opinions.

In Italy as a whole, important changes have taken place in the expectations of couples. An egalitarian ideology now informs the lives of married couples, and the expectation is that husband and wife will share in household chores and responsibilities. In fact, men assume little of the burden of housework, so that women still carry most of the responsibility for it, and the input of husbands is most evident in relation to childcare (Bimbi, 1993).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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