An "Imperfect" Contraceptive Society: Fertility in Italy

Alessandra Gribaldo, Brown University
Maya Judd, Brown University
David I. Kertzer, Brown University

Italy represents an unexpected and in some ways paradoxical outcome in terms of fertility control: one of the lowest birth rates in the world seems to have been accomplished through the preponderant use of “traditional” methods. Compared to other countries, there has been a reluctance to abandon coitus interruptus. In France in 1994, 84% of women used Intrauterine Devices or the pill, compared to 42% in Italy in 1995; the proportion using withdrawal was respectively 3% and 25% (Castiglioni, et al. 2001). Using data from 362 interviews conducted in 2005-2006 in four Italian cities, we argue that Italians using withdrawal often have “unplanned” AND desired conceptions. Such results suggest the need to rethink theoretical understandings of low fertility. Individuals manipulate culturally produced norms and beliefs about the appropriate moment to have a child (albeit delayed) through use of coitus interruptus; simultaneously, their actions are embedded in cultural, economic and political processes.

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Presented in Session 159: Multiple Country Perspectives on Reproductive Health