Transitions to Adulthood

Gunter, Anthony and Holford, Naomi (2023). Transitions to Adulthood. In: Cooper, Victoria and Tatlow-Golden, Mimi eds. An Introduction to Childhood and Youth Studies and Psychology. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 218–232.



This final chapter introduces you to thinking about what it means to become an adult, drawing on many disciplines to consider the cultural and historical features of this process. Extending beyond adolescence, becoming an adult involves biological, legal, psychological, emotional, and social processes. These can happen at different ages and may not be a smooth, one-way process – for example, there may be times of leaving home and moving back again. Adulthood is also considered a time in which people find – or solidify – their individual and group identities. Becoming an adult involves entering new social structures, including education and/or work. School experiences can prepare young people differently for work. But work may no longer be an identity marker, as it has become precarious. Higher education in the UK has expanded significantly recently, and a large proportion of young people in the UK engage with higher education in various forms – but there are still inequalities in access.

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