American Sociological Association

The Transition to Adulthood: Life Course Structures and Subjective Perceptions

We examine the relationships between objective life-course structures and the subjective sense of timing of adult roles and acquisition of adult identity. Hierarchical latent class analysis is applied to longitudinal data from the Youth Development Study in order to describe roles related to school, work, family formation, and living arrangements from age 17 to 30. The transition to adulthood in this cohort is well represented by five pathways probabilistically mapping the timing and sequencing of these roles and their configurations. Three pathways are characterized by a school-to-work transition with on-time, delayed, or negligible family formation. The two remaining pathways involve early parenthood with either a partner and stable full-time work or the lack of a partner and little labor-force attachment. We then show that the subjective sense of timing with respect to certain adult roles and adult identity acquisition is empirically tied to these life-course structures.


Eliason, S. R., Mortimer, J. T., Vuolo, M.





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