Minister calls for law to force Italy's 'big babies' to grow up

A minister in Silvio Berlusconi's government has called for a new law to make Italy's notoriously mollycoddled youth leave home by the age of 18 to "deal with the culture of mummy's boys and big babies".

Innovation minister Renato Brunetta made his comments after a judge ordered a man in Bergamo to continue paying €350 (£308) a month to his 32-year-old daughter, who is continuing to work on her thesis eight years after graduating in philosophy. Studies suggest more than half of Italians under the age of 34 live with their parents. Several words have been coined in the Italian language to describe these overgrown adult children, such as bambocciona and mammone.

"We need this debate," Mr Brunetta told The Independent. "In a sense I'm being provocative. However, all these young people think they're living in a free hotel, and actually there's a price they pay. It allows their parents to keep control of them, emotionally, socially and financially – and deny them their freedom and the chance to mature."

For the diminutive but outspoken minister, a self-proclaimed enemy of idlers and slackers, calling for such legislation amounts to a case of "do as I say; not as I do". Mr Brunetta admits to having left home at the age of 30. "I was a mummy's boy, too," he said. "Until I was 30, it was my mother who made my bed every morning, which I'm ashamed of."

While Education Minister, Mariastella Gelmini, backed her colleague, saying that "a timely emancipation from the family is a good thing", other cabinet members went on the offensive.

Roberto Calderoli, minister without portfolio, said: "My friend Brunetta seems to have lost the plot. [His proposal] represents an unacceptable interference in the lives of families, single people and their decisions." Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, said. "I was at home with my parents until I was 27, when I got married. I expect my daughter will do the same."

Yesterday Corriere della Sera reported the case of a 36-year-old pianist in Rome, who lived with his divorced mother and grandmother, with his only source of income €225 (£198) a month pocket money sent by his father. He said he was staying put with his mother until he was able to find a secure job.