Italian court says 'mummy's boys' have right to sponge off parents indefinitely

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Italy's highest court has ruled that the country's growing army of mammoni (mummy's boys) have the right to lie around the house, provided for by their parents until the job of a lifetime comes up – even if they are nearly 30.

In a ruling that has sparked debate and soul-searching, the Corte di Cassazione turned down an appeal by a retired Neapolitan professor who felt his son should fend for himself. "There is nothing wrong in the conduct of a young person, especially if he comes from a well-to-do family, in refusing a job that does not correspond to his training, habits, attitudes and interests," the judges pronounced. The man, Giuseppe A, wanted to stop a €750 (£460) monthly maintenance payment for his son Marco, 29, a law graduate, on the grounds that he had turned down jobs, had bought an apartment in a good area of town and had an investment trust worth €258,000.

However, the court ruled that it was the father's duty to maintain Marco financially until he could reach "economic autonomy". Several newspapers noted that the court was simply reflecting reality.

"Highly diseducative," admonished Anna Oliviero Ferraris, a Rome psychology professor, who said the sentence encouraged the "pathological tendency to delay leaving the nest".

Some 70 per cent of 29-year-old Italian men live with their parents, while only about half the number of women of the same age do so. Simone Baldelli, of the youth wing of Silvio Berlusconi's party Forza Italia, said the ruling encouraged the family to be viewed as "a social shock absorber".

For years doting Italian mammas have been blamed for the Peter Pan syndrome where their sons prefer home comforts to independence.

In yesterday's La Stampa, the anonymous mother of a 28-year-old engineer wrote that many mothers were fed up. "The best time is the evening because the day is over," she wrote. "A quick dinner, being careful not to comment on any current events so as not to be accused of having neo-Nazi tendencies, or being a gossip who drinks up the tabloid news like a limoncello liqueur, and then he goes out or disappears into his room. My son could have found a good secure job but he prefers research, so he works but earns hardly anything at all."

Others were worse off, the mother said. "The son of my friend has decided that he will never work; he wants to be kept while his parents are alive and afterwards, he says, he'll become a tramp."