Changes in the transition to adulthood in the UK and Canada: the role of structure and agency in emerging adulthood
This paper picks up from Bynner's recent critique of the current formulation of emerging adulthood as presented in his recent exchange with Arnett in the Journal of Youth Studies (2005, volume 8(4) and 2006, volume 9(1)). It pays particular attention to the exclusion processes in education and the workplace that prevent young people in some socio-economic contexts from experiencing the developmental processes presumed to be of benefit to all ‘emerging adults’. In addition, an alternative to Arnett's psychological, free-choice model of emerging adulthood is offered that identifies the social and economic conditions that have produced the prolonged transition to adulthood. We argue that this hiatus in the life-course, which is increasingly referred to as emerging adulthood, can be better explained in terms of changing economic conditions leading to a lowering of the social status of the young that is contributing to increasingly precarious trajectories, and in terms of the decline in the social markers of adulthood associated with the individualization process. When these structural conditions are examined, it appears that Arnett's model ‘begs the question’ about emerging adulthood (i.e. takes for granted the very thing under contention), and mistakes the coping mechanisms of many young people for freely chosen options to delay their entry into adulthood.
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Taylor & Francis Online