9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 The Transition to Parenthood: Consequences and Adaptation Building II, Auditório B1.03

Fertile minds in infertile bodies: social constraints, procreative wishes and life choices of infertile couples in Italy

The paper focuses on the results of several researches conducted from 2004 to now by the Laboratory of social research LaRiCA at the University of Urbino. The topics of those researches are the experiences, wishes and choices of infertile couples and individuals in Italy who decided to undergo a medical treatment of infertility in a private or public structure in the cities of Bologna, Abano Terme, Udine, Milano and Napoli. The empirical data has been collected through individual interviews and focus groups with men and women who are living a story of infertility. The last phase of the research (2008-2009) was financially supported by the Italian Ministry of Health.
In our presentation in Lisbon we would focus on the contradictory process of identity construction of this couples in the current Italian society, where the social values of "family" and "children" are very important in the public discourses (media, politics, Church). On the other hand, this different form of family (wishing children but failing in achieving children) is marginalised, despite the fact that its members are culturally integrated: they have correctly interiorized the prevailing image of family, they have "fertile" mind despite their infertile bodies.
We can indeed assert that infertility in Italy is socially constructed as a private problem. The social lack of concern for the problem of infertility is strongly perceived by the infertile couples.
More precisely the status of infertility seams to be associated with a social stigma, despite the social roots of the problem in developed western societies.
This merging of indifference and stigmatization produces several important effects in the patterns of behaviour, of intimate life and in the construction of social network of the investigated couples. There are risks of auto-segregation and isolation in order to reduce the suffering caused by the impossibility to satisfy a desire for parenthood, excluding "normal" families from their every day lifes.
Another results of the research concern the role of Italian media in the construction of social reality of infertility and of social identity of infertile couples (based on a content analysis of media discourses).