A Matter of Number, Age or Marriage?
Children and Marital Dissolution in Italy
Received: 27 January 2010 / Accepted: 9 August 2010 / Published online: 3 September 2010
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
Abstract Previous research has shown that the number of children, their age and
the timing of births relative to marriage are associated with the stability of the
parental marital union. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of children
in this multidimensional association as a determinant of disruption in Italy, a
country where this research question is particularly interesting because of the tra-
ditional vision of the family, in terms of formation and dissolution procedures,
family and gender roles, and obligations among family members. The relative risk
of marital disruption is estimated using some discrete time event-history models. As
expected, the ﬁndings show that children born in the marriage have a large pro-
tective effect on marital stability, a sizeable portion of which is not due to the
children’s age. Conversely, children born out of wedlock do not inhibit marital
disruption, but neither do they increase the risk as they do in other countries. This is
probably because of the type of reproductive behaviour widespread in Italy.
Keywords Family Á Italy Á Divorce Á Marital dissolution Á Children
Folk wisdom and social scientists alike often maintain that children give stability to
parental marriage. There are many good reasons to support this statement, some
based on common sense; others on sophisticated theoretical explanations. One of the
latter explanations is that in a traditional vision of the family, children enhance a
sexual division of labour, which in turn increases the effectiveness of the family and
produces greater interdependence and less competition between the spouses.
Moreover, the presence of children engenders the so-called marital-speciﬁc capital,
which would be lost were the marriage to end.
L. Todesco (&)
Department of Social Sciences, University of Turin, Via S. Ottavio 50, 10124 Turin, Italy
Popul Res Policy Rev (2011) 30:313–332