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An Imperfect Contraceptive Society: Fertility and Contraception in Italy


  • Alessandra Gribaldo
  • Maya D. Judd
  • David I. Kertzer


Italy represents an unexpected and in some ways paradoxical outcome in terms of fertility control: a drop to one of the lowest birth rates in the world has been accompanied by continuing extensive use of traditional methods despite the availability of modern contraception. Using data from 349 interviews conducted in 2005-06 in four Italian cities, we argue that Italian women commonly achieve "unplanned" and desired conceptions through the use of withdrawal and natural methods. While data from other countries reveal similar notions of ambivalence surrounding pregnancy intentions and contraceptive use, Italy stands out for the surprising correlation between highly "managing" the conditions under which children are born and the socially commended approach of "letting births happen." Such results suggest the need to rethink theoretical understandings of low fertility. Through the use of non-technological methods, individuals manipulate culturally produced norms and beliefs about the appropriate time to have a child; simultaneously, their actions are embedded in larger cultural, economic, and political processes. Copyright (c) 2009 The Population Council, Inc..

Suggested Citation

  • Alessandra Gribaldo & Maya D. Judd & David I. Kertzer, 2009. "An Imperfect Contraceptive Society: Fertility and Contraception in Italy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 35(3), pages 551-584.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:35:y:2009:i:3:p:551-584

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Dereuddre, Rozemarijn & Van de Velde, Sarah & Bracke, Piet, 2016. "Gender inequality and the ‘East-West’ divide in contraception: An analysis at the individual, the couple, and the country level," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 1-12.
    2. Megan Sweeney & Teresa Castro Martín & Melinda Mills, 2015. "The reproductive context of cohabitation in comparative perspective," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 32(5), pages 147-182, January.
    3. Rozemarijn Dereuddre & Bart Van de Putte & Piet Bracke, 2016. "Ready, Willing, and Able: Contraceptive Use Patterns Across Europe," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, pages 543-573.

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