Late marriage is most common, with average ages at time of marriage being about 28 for men and 24 for women, and with many individuals remaining unmarried well into their 30s. Until fairly recently, Italian civil codes held that adultery could only be committed by women and that divorce was not possible—although a man could have his marriage annulled on the grounds of adultery or on discovering that his bride was not a virgin. Legal policy encouraged large families, with the sale or purchase of contraceptive devices being illegal until 1971. Still, Piemonte's average family size has through most of this century been less than two children per married couple. Although abortions became legal in Italy only in 1978, the practice was not unknown prior to that time. Civil marriages have become common since the 1970s, with the legalization of divorce.
Family structure is, as noted previously, strongly influenced by socioeconomic factors. Whether nuclear or extended, the family is normatively thought to form a tight, unified group when confronting the outside world. Within the family itself, however, dissension is not uncommon, as Individual interests (such as competing claims to heritable property) and personality clashes often cause problems among siblings. Within the household, the wife plays a strong decision-making role, often extending to control of the family budget.
Responsibility for the care and socialization of children during the early years of life falls to the mother. As the child grows older, the church and schools take on much of the Socialization process.