Families, reproductive health and “bamboccioni” [bachelors who live with their parents]

by Giulia Paola Di Nicola and Attilio Danese

Hardly anyone paid much heed to the Recommendation to the 47 member countries of the EU concerning sexual and reproductive health that was approved by the assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (27 January).

The concern in Europe (this time voiced by Christine McCafferty from Britain) seems to be about access of young people, including minors, to contraception, free abortion, sterilisation, artificial fertilisation and free “sexual guidance”. Parents do not have to be informed about any of this.

It is not hard to see that this is a Trojan horse intended to introduce abortion as a right. However, we do not wish to deal with a question on which the whole Catholic world and many secularists have been showing a united front in trying to halt the culture of death promoted by the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. We would just like to point out that the problems facing families are a far cry from the demand to leave their daughters free to have abortions. We wonder if it is really true that boys and girls, in order to be mature and not end up as “big babies”, have to be capable of self-determination individually. Is the model for men and women an individual who is free of all ties or is it a person who is inserted in a context of relationship and capable of taking care of a family?


Too many real problems get overlooked or distorted. Among these, we have the difficulties of families with adult children at home. Research carried out by the Italian National Statistics Institute in 2007 showed that young people remain in their parents’ home until they leave to get married. Of every 100 people who declared their intention of leaving their families in 2003, little more than one half have actually left (53.4%), in spite of their intention (certain or probable) of doing so.

If we leave aside differences in culture, age and gender, the reasons put forward are: marriage 43.7%, autonomy/independence 28.1%, cohabitation 11.8%, work 8%, study 5.5%. The critical age is between 25 and 29. Financial difficulties are the reasons cited by 57.1% of the men and 51.3% of the women.

This brings about bitter criticism of young people who are maybe too hastily labelled as “bamboccioni” or “mummy’s boys”, and to a “blocked” familistic society.

As for the young people, it is understandable that it is only through the strong bonds of stable love that they will dare to take the plunge out into the world.

The practical problems of daily life cannot be underestimated. Being jobless or having only temporary work does not guarantee that the rent for an apartment (and associated costs) can be paid, not to speak of a mortgage. They have to manage alone with the house, cooking, the thousands of household chores and the evenings that need to be organised if they are not to die of starvation and TV. Leaving home may have the advantage of not being subject to other people’s rhythms, but it involves so many risks that only the experience of stable strong love can help to overcome them.

Young people certainly pay the price of a world cut out to the measure of adults who do not wish to give up their privileges. However, we also have to remember that the burden on the parents is not any lighter. Children today are no longer the traditional “walking stick of old age” for their parents. It is the parents who have to bear with adolescence that seems endless. After having taken great trouble to bring their children up to adulthood and making them study, now they find they have to supplement the miserable salaries their children receive for occasional jobs, keep their home available as a hotel for them, a job agency, a lending bank and insurance for a future without a pension. Living together is not always easy. In fact it is often quite dramatic. In any case, whether they are at home or not, the children have no other handhold for their precarious and fragile situation than the anchor of their family of origin. Under these circumstances, how can we encourage married couples to be generous and have children? These real family problems seem to be secondary to those who direct attention to sexual and reproductive health. The proposed solutions do not go to the root of the problem, but they are a perfect fit for a culture concerned about exalting the freedom of the self, as soon as possible, from the family.

Another question arises: are we quite sure that parents and offspring remain together because of financial constraints? Why must we take a North European model where children leave home as soon as possible, rather than a Mediterranean model that is “familistic and backward”?

There are plenty of young people who stay with their families because they are satisfied with the degree of freedom and autonomy that their parents grant them and even because they feel that it is their duty to take care of their parents.


Should we not at least wonder if the model of a single person, cohabiting or not, is a result of a kind of society that does not always coincide with the desire of young people? Perhaps in the future, whether constrained or not by circumstances, they might feel nostalgia for a large and solid family. The desire is seen emerging more and more, especially among young married couples, not to go far from their family of origin, even though they go to live in their separate home. In any case, they want to have a firm and reassuring community close by.

At the root of this is the need for significant relationships. Whether living with the family or far away, alone or as a couple, all aspire for an environment that is humanly warm and worthy of being inhabited, filled with the values of family humanism that educates in respect for difference and care for unity.

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