Perhaps it is because of the crisis of values that has attacked this millennium, or the chronic recession that does not allow people to spend more than the essential, but it is a matter of fact that the Italians marry less and less frequently, both for the first and for the second time. When they do get married, they do so more and more often with a civil ceremony and in a ‘mature’ age, on average at the age of 34 (men) and 31 (women).
Whereas less weddings are celebrated, grows the number of common-law couples, whose number doubled between 2008 to 2014. Besides, separations and divorces slow down and this is, probably, the effect of the economic crisis that does not allow people to think gleefully about the legal costs of saying goodbye to each other. Nonetheless, separations are more frequent among couples united with civil ceremonies and, although legal separations are more numerous in the North, the heaviest percentage increase concerns the South. The average duration of marriages is 16 years, and not even the over 60 are spared by marital crisis.
This is the picture presented by ISTAT, which has analyzed the national family system in a 2014 report on marriages, separations and divorces. As to the involvement of children in separations and divorces, currently prevails shared custody. On the front of mixed couples, separations increase, even if the Italians, especially Italian men, continue to like their foreign wives, especially if she is from Eastern Europe, since every second foreign wife is from a Eastern European country. Whereas Italian women prefer men from Morocco, Albania and Tunisia.
In 2014 were celebrated 189,765 weddings, 4,300 less than in 2013 and, whereas between 2008 and 2014 marriages in Italy decreased by about 57,000 units. In the face of this hemorrhage of weddings, cohabitation marital states are over a million and those between celibate and unmarried partners reached 641thousand in 2013-2014. Data on births confirm that free unions is a more and more widespread way of family formation: the parents of one child out of four born in 2014 are not married.
The average rise of the age of first marriage is caused also by the prolonged stay of the young people in their families of origin, – ISTAT explains – by the widespread increase of schooling and the extension of training times, and the difficulties those young people experience in entering the world of work, as well as the precariousness of employment itself and the difficulty they encounter in accessing the housing market. Not only do Italians marry less and in mature age, but decreases the number of second marriages, which represent an important indicator of the spread of new family forms. Their development had been characterized by a continuous increase until 2008; then there was a slowdown, followed by a slight decrease. In 2014, 30,638 weddings were celebrated in Italy with at least one of the two spouses who was marrying for the second time, about 10% less than in 2008.
Another important data, in this era of absolute relativism: whereas it is true that 43% of weddings are celebrated with civil ceremony, according to ISTAT, marriages celebrated with religious rite ‘resist’ longer in time. On the front of marital instability, in fact, we are witnessing a slowdown of the phenomenon: in 2014 there were 89,303 separations and 52,335 divorces. The number of separations in 2014 is more or less equal to the average level of separations of the last 4 years, while divorces decreased by 2000 units in 2014 compared to 2008.
The reasons for this setback “are different – ISTAT explains – and can be attributed to the effects of population structure (less weddings, hence potentially less divorces), economic and regulatory. The economic downturn is likely to act as a deterrent in the dissolution of marriages, that often involves a risk of worsening the economic condition of the families”. As to the regulatory side of the question, during the last years has been intensifying the appeals of the Italian citizens to dissolute their conjugal union in other countries of the European Union, reducing thus the duration of the process (and generally also its costs) and without having to go through separation before the actual divorce.