The Italian Almanac

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father and son, 46 years ago

Italian News - October22

Italians are old, and continue to pick up one age-related record after another. The latest trophy regards fatherhood, since Italian dads are the oldest in the world. For Italian men more than women, becoming a new parent is an experience that takes place at an advanced age, with the result that Italian dads have a smaller overall number of children. The less than prestigious record, which contradicts the widespread belief that women are responsible for Italy’s low level of fertility, is confirmed by ISTAT, the national statistics institute, in a study that has for the first time drawn a profile of fatherhood in Italy.

Italian women have their first child a year later than their peers in other countries, but the gap more than doubles for men, rising to more than two years. ISTAT claims that the age of the male has a “more marked negative effect” than the age of his partner on the decision to have a first child. The later men settle down, the more they tend to put off the decision to have a child. The propensity to have a first child falls by as much as 80% for those who marry at around 35, in comparison with men who take the plunge at about 25. The trend holds equally true in the north and south of the country. The age of the woman appears only to have a negative impact when the woman is the older partner.

According to ISTAT, the root of the problem is “hyper-rationalisation”. As they get older, people tend to become more cautious and less willing to take risks, or tackle experiences that involve duties and responsibilities. This appears to be especially true for men, who can put off the decision to become fathers indefinitely, whereas women’s fertile period imposes a deadline.