HEALTHY LIVING
06/05/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Behind The "Mama's Boy" Stereotype

To Italians, with their history of strong family ties, there is nothing pathological about staying put until marriage, especially if one is unemployed. "The traditional family unit was historically the only guarantee of survival in uncertain times," says Roberto Vincenzi, a professor of psychotherapy in Genoa. Vincenzi says the key factor that keeps Italy's "figli per sempre" (sons forever) home in greater numbers than daughters is the sons' stronger attachments to their mothers. Proietti believes that mammismo has its roots in the traditional role of the Italian (and Latin) woman, who often felt unfulfilled before career and divorce were options. "She thus poured her love into her children. Over time, the son became a sort of husband to his mother, without the sexual component," she says. Vincenzi says the mother-son bond becomes pathological only when it impedes the son from growing up.

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