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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 18:13 GMT
Family is cradle of respect in Italy
By Daniel Sandford
BBC News, Rome

The culture of respect between the generations in Italy is very different to the old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon idea that children should be seen and not heard.

Children playing
Children are indulged in Italy rather than criticised

In the relationship between the old and the young respect is very important; but it is based on the idea that the adults should respect the children at all times.

The cult of the "bambini" and the "giovani" is deeply entrenched.

As babies, children are, where possible, dressed in the latest designer gear. Their first moped or "motorino" appears as soon as they are old enough to ride it, closely followed by their first car.

Childhood is the age of innocence, and should not be encumbered by rules and discipline. Children are there to be indulged not criticised.

As a consequence, there is much less of a youth counter-culture in Italy than there is in Britain, for example. There is no family hierarchy to rebel against.

Does this mean teenagers are all well-behaved?

Of course not. They can be spoiled, thoughtless and noisy; but few people seem to mind all that much.

Change

That said, there is a perception here in Italy that things are starting to change.

Teachers and parents are increasingly worried that teenagers fed on foreign television are rude and ill-disciplined.

It may not be as prevalent as in other countries, but people are starting to say that children do not behave as they used to

Graffiti and drugs are more common than they were.

Young people escaping from a claustrophobic atmosphere at home hang around in large groups late at night. Drunkenness is still very rare though.

All the same youth crime is low, except in Naples, which has its own peculiar problems.

There adolescents are often used by organised crime groups to sell drugs and steal.

So, it may not be as prevalent as in other countries, but people are starting to say that children do not behave as they used to.

Ancient rites

On the other hand they have been saying that in Italy for thousands of years.

Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) was born in 65 BC in Venusia, in Apulia (the region now called Puglia.)

In his Odes III. vi. 46 he wrote:

"Aetas parentum peior avis tulit

Nos nequiores, mox daturos

Progeniem vitiosiorem."

Which roughly translated means:

"Our parents - born less worthy than their parents -

Have produced us, and we are worse,

And we will have children who are even more ghastly."

Some things never change.


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