Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Conceptions of the Transition to Adulthood in a Sample of Greek Higher Education Students

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Conceptions of the Transition to Adulthood in a Sample of Greek Higher Education Students

Article excerpt

Over the last three decades a steadily growing number of studies and published papers with regard to life changes in adulthood have appeared in the field of developmental science. For example, Erikson (1968) suggested that there are three stages of adult development (young adulthood, maturity, and old age) each defined psychosexually in relation to adult relationships and becoming a parent. Vaillant (1995) and Levinson (1986) have suggested that once men aged between 20 and 35 get married, they focus on their careers, sometimes to the detriment of their personal lives. Gilligan (1982) suggests that women are more influenced by the need to be nurturant, especially in unequal relationships indicating that their psychosocial development may be different to that of men both at home and in the workplace. These types of gender-differentiated theories are important in suggesting that male and female children, adolescents, and adults may work out aspects of their identity, and the way they perceive adulthood, differently.

As we progress through the early part of our lives toward adulthood, a number of experiences we go through, actions we take, plus skills and knowledge we gather in both formal (e.g., educational) and informal (e.g., socializing) spheres, are assumed as preparatory for autonomous existence in adulthood. However, this transition is not simply a matter of reaching a particular age. On the contrary, Settersen and Mayer (1997), criticizing the notion of chronological age, noted that this is a substitute for biological age, maturation, psychological development, social membership, and other aspects of age-graded social life. From a developmental point of view, according to Butterworth and Harris (1994), it is not clear that such life changes themselves constitute stages of development in the same sense that stages were defined for the various periods of childhood following, for example, the Piagetian or Freudian viewpoint. "Certainly, we can expect much greater variability in the way such changes occur and much less universality in their effects. Of course, there is also great scope for cultural variation in the ways in which societies manage these adult life changes, both in terms of the social organisation for reproduction (e.g. through marriage), or in the ways in which work is allocated through the education system" (Butterworth & Harris, 1994, p.242).

As Dannefer (1987) pointed out, especially for Western societies, and perhaps for other areas of the world as well, age may be less and less useful as a marker of personal progress through life, since there is more and more variability among similarly aged individuals. As a matter of fact, there has been much debate and discussion, at least since the 1980s, over the increasingly complex and ambivalent nature of this transitory phase and societies' concern about the future of young persons (Cavalli & Galland, 1995).

This demographically "dense" (Rindfuss, 1991, p.496), transitory period to adulthood and the autonomy that it implies, is reflected in the capacity for reproduction (biologically), the capability of political reasoning and action and responsibilities undertaken (culturally), economic independence and productivity (socially), and a quality of maturity in one's personal identity (psychologically). In fact, it is made up of a series of many relatively "factual", socio-demographically and culturally defined events/conditions. A first group of these events could be labeled "structural components" such as age at school leaving, age at marriage and/or becoming a parent, getting a job, conditions of labour-market entrance, education and training facilities, supply of affordable housing for young people, legal age-based criteria defining rights and responsibilities, conditions and values allowing or restricting pre-marital cohabitation, regulations of individual access to welfare provision, etc.). A second group reflects psychologically defined circumstances -they could be labeled "subjective components"- spanning a set of relevant life domains. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.