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Social Customs and Demographic Change: The Case of Godparenthood in Catholic Europe

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This article analyzes social norms regulating the selection of godparents in Italy and France. Based on Vatican statistics and European Values Study responses, the vast majority of children in Catholic Europe are baptized and birth rituals are considered important even by nonbelievers. Moreover, the dominant custom of selecting godparents from among kinsmen is a recent development, based on historical data. A new survey about the selection of godparents in Italy and France, conducted for this study, shows that godparents are chosen not for religious, but for social‐relational reasons. Selection of kinsmen is the norm, with uncles and aunts being the majority choice. For Italy, choice determinants are explored by means of multinomial regressions. The results are contrasted with demographic change to show that in lowest‐low fertility countries current godparenthood models are bound to disappear.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and PAM Bocconi University 2: Centre Roland Mousnier CNRS 3: Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics Bocconi University

Publication date: September 1, 2012


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