Coming of Age in America: The Transition to Adulthood in the Twenty-First Century

Coming of Age in America: The Transition to Adulthood in the Twenty-First Century

Coming of Age in America: The Transition to Adulthood in the Twenty-First Century

Coming of Age in America: The Transition to Adulthood in the Twenty-First Century

Synopsis

What is it like to become an adult in twenty-first-century America? This book takes us to four very different places--New York City, San Diego, rural Iowa, and Saint Paul, Minnesota--to explore the dramatic shifts in coming-of-age experiences across the country. Drawing from in-depth interviews with people in their twenties and early thirties, it probes experiences and decisions surrounding education, work, marriage, parenthood, and housing. The first study to systematically explore this phenomenon from a qualitative perspective, Coming of Age in America offers a clear view of how traditional patterns and expectations are changing, of the range of forces that are shaping these changes, and of how young people themselves view their lives.

Excerpt

What is it like to become an adult in twenty-first-century America?

While there are many answers to that question, one thing is certain. The journey to adulthood that today’s twentysomethings make is not the same as the one completed by their parents or grandparents. Becoming an adult in America in the immediate postwar period of the 1950s was envisioned as a remarkably uniform, swift, and unproblematic process: finish school, get a job and get married, set up an independent household, have kids, and settle into a career as a single-earner, twoparent family. But almost as soon as this “Leave It to Beaver” lifestyle became an ideal that young Americans aspired to, subsequent social and economic transformations made it more and more difficult to achieve. Indeed, scholars who study the life course have demonstrated that the transition from adolescence to adulthood has in recent years become more complicated, uncertain, and extended than ever before (Furstenberg et al. 2004; Settersten et al. 2005 [see, especially, chapters by Fussell and Furstenberg; Mouw; and Osgood et al.]). This is not only happening in the United States, but also characterizes other developed countries in Western Europe and Japan (Brinton 2011; Newman and Aptekar 2007).

The reasons for these changes are complicated—including changes in gender norms that have led women into the workforce in unprecedented numbers, growth in the numbers of people never marrying, and growth in the ability to postpone marriage and yet still have sexual relationships. There have also been increases in the amount of schooling . . .

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