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Transition to Adulthood

Transition to Adulthood

Adulthood is a phase marked by achieving emotional, cognitive, and social maturity, along with the capacity to take on adult duties and obligations. It signifies the shift from adolescence to a period of increased self-reliance and autonomy (Backes & Bonnie, 2019). The indicators of this shift from late adolescence to early adulthood are diverse and shaped by cultural, social class, and family circumstances. Cultural factors are influential in shaping the concept of adulthood. Various societies may prioritize different indicators, such as matrimony, economic autonomy, or child-rearing. In certain cultural contexts, attaining adulthood may be predicated upon the institution of marriage and the assumption of parental responsibilities. Conversely, alternative cultures may emphasize individual accomplishments or fiscal security as markers of maturity.

Social class influences the indicators of adulthood. Individuals of elevated socioeconomic status may experience enhanced access to educational and professional prospects, potentially deferring significant life milestones such as marriage and parenthood (Nilsen, 2020; Stapley et al., 2021). Conversely, individuals from lower socioeconomic strata may emphasize attaining economic security and establishing familial bonds at an earlier stage. The familial context is a significant factor of influence. A familial support system can serve as a protective barrier, facilitating the pursuit of educational and vocational aspirations (Nilsen, 2020; Stapley et al., 2021). On the contrary, familial pressures or responsibilities can hasten milestones such as marriage and parenthood for other individuals.

In a hypothetical late adolescent who promptly secures employment, enters into matrimony, and becomes a parent, their life trajectory would inevitably prioritize familial and economic stability in the initial stages, thereby limiting their prospects for educational attainment and professional growth. On the contrary, those pursuing higher education may postpone marriage and parenthood to prioritize personal development and professional aspirations. This decision can lead to financial security and a more diverse range of life experiences before assuming adult responsibilities. The various life trajectories demonstrate how the order in which roles are assumed can greatly impact an individual’s perception of maturity and the specific indicators of adulthood they prioritize.


Backes, E. P., & Bonnie, R. J. (2019). Adolescent Development.; National Academies Press (US).

Nilsen, A. (2020). Independence and relationality in notions of adulthood across generations, gender, and social class. The Sociological Review, 69(1), 123–138.

Stapley, E., Vainieri, I., Li, E., Merrick, H., Jeffery, M., Foreman, S., Casey, P., Ullman, R., & Cortina, M. (2021). A Scoping Review of the Factors That Influence Families’ Ability or Capacity to Provide Young People With Emotional Support Over the Transition to Adulthood. Frontiers in Psychology, 12.


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Transition to Adulthood

Transition to Adulthood

Create a definition of adulthood. Discuss the ‘markers’ of when later adolescence ends and early adulthood begins. Discuss the role of culture, social class, and family context. Consider how the sequencing of roles influences one’s sense of maturity. Put yourself in the position of a late adolescent who graduates from high school, immediately gets a job, marries, and has children. How might this person’s hypothetical life course differ from that of an individual who chooses college and delays these life events?

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