Through centuries of unrest, the family in Italy was a source of stability and strength in an unpredictable world where governments and borders were always changing. Today, with more stable governments and a more prosperous economy, the Italian family is undergoing a transformation.

 One of the biggest changes is in its size. Large families were once the ideal, particularly large families of boys. Today, however, the birth rate in Italy has dropped to about 1.2 births for every woman of child-bearing age. This means that the population is not growing and the elderly are becoming a larger proportion of the population. One regional government in the northwest of Italy has offered financial incentives to encourage families to have more children.

Although the birth rate is low, the extended family remains important. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are often invited to share family celebrations and Sunday dinner. It is not unusual for extended family members to live near each other or in the same household. When children grow up, they often stay in the family home until they marry. Sometimes married children move in with their parents to help with a family business. The father was once the head of the family and the family's link to the rest of the world. The mother had power within the family unit. These traditional roles are changing today as more women enter the paid workforce.
Did you know? 

There is no national child care system in Italy. About 7% of parents use private daycare. The daycare centres are called nidi (nests). 

Children have a special place in Italian society. Italians make an effort to include children in social events. Children go out with their parents to restaurants. They also stay up late at night to play in the piazza while the parents and grandparents enjoy a drink at a nearby cafe. Most babies are looked after at home by their grandparents or by their mothers, if they don't work outside the home.

 Meal time is family time in Italy. Family members expect to eat together around the table. After dinner the family may go out for the passeggiata, an evening stroll. It is a time to relax and chat with neighbours and friends, to see and be seen, so everyone dresses to look their best.

Did you know? 

More than 70% of the population of Italy live in urban areas.