New Adulthood: Personal or Social Transition?

Blatterer, Harry (2005) New Adulthood: Personal or Social Transition? In Social Change in the 21st Century Conference, Brisbane.

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The life course is part of our taken-for-granted stock of knowledge, even though the temporal boundaries of its phases have shifted under pressure from changing conditions. A case in point is adolescence. Previously largely overlapping with the teen-age period, it has now been extended to cover what used to be young adulthood. The reason lies in the way of life of many individuals in this age group (roughly 18-30) which no longer corresponds to generally accepted features of adulthood, most particularly economic independence and social stability. In the social sciences a sub-category of postadolescence has emerged as a label for such lifestyles. In turn, the media and marketing professionals have captured the emergent phenomenon labelling its progenitors kidults, adultescents, rejuveniles, etc. While implicitly acknowledging change, these labels are conservative since they rest on established assumptions about what it means to be adult. I challenge this position and argue that social forces have propelled young people into patterns of action inconceivable to the previous generation. Through this, rather than eschewing adulthood per se, they have forged a new adulthood. On both theoretical and empirical grounds, I suggest that the putative postadolescents do not need to catch up with 'normal' adulthood. Rather, we need to develop a new understanding of what adulthood means in the social world people are facing today – a world which is very different from the one in which the previous generation has had its maturity acknowledged.

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ID Code: 3485
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Adulthood, postadolescence, social change, recognition, sociology
ISBN: 1741071089
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Social Theory (160806)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Social Change Research
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2005 Harry Blatterer
Deposited On: 07 Feb 2006 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:30

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