Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Transition to Adulthood in Italy: An Intergenerational Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Transition to Adulthood in Italy: An Intergenerational Perspective

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Over the past few decades, families in industrialized countries have witnessed a prolonged transition to adulthood (Arnett, 2000; Buchamm and Kriesi, 2011; Buhl and Lanz, 2007; Fussell and Gauthier, 2005; Micheli andRosina, 2009; Scabini et al., 2006). As Arnett (2000, 2004,2007) points out, sweeping demographic shifts over the past half-century have turned the late teens and early twenties from a short transition to adult roles to a distinct period in the life course characterised by the exploration of possible life directions. A number of pathways to adulthood can be defined in different countries, according to their diverse institutions, cultures and economies (Billari, 2004; Buhl and Lanz, 2007). Recent years have seen the phenomenon of adult children still living with their parents spread across Europe and the US (Bynner, 2012; Seiffge-Krenke, 2013). Moreover, while in the past the tasks of establishing physical and psychosocial independence were linked in time and drove each other, nowadays a longer transition to adult status has split them, and markers of adulthood occur at later stages (Furstenberg, 2010; Seiffge-Krenke, 2013). Psychologists and sociologists have investigated the demographic implications of the delay in leaving the parental home: dropping birth rates, postponed marriage, an aging population (Blangiardo, 2010; Qian, 2012; Seiffge-Krenke, 2013; Testa, 2012).

The new, longer transition to adulthood is marked by numerous micro-transitions (Breunlin, 1988) beginning in late adolescence. The order of traditional markers has been altered by the post-modern lifestyle, whereby choices are continually revised and reversed (Carra and Marta, 1995). According to Giddens (1991), individual life planning, also by young adults (Billari and Liefbroer, 2010), has become a general feature of modem life. In the same direction, Beck (1992) stresses that postponing adult choices may be considered a rational answer to increasing social uncertainty. Young adulthood is a time when a variety of directions remain open to exploration, and this usually occurs within the family. So, the transition to adulthood becomes a joint enterprise involving parents and young adults alike (Scabini et al., 2006) and potentially benefiting both (Fingerman et al., 2011 ).

In Italy, the prolonged transition to adulthood is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, 30 years ago some authors had already stressed the difficulty for young Italians in making definitive choices (Buzzi et al., 2007; Garelli, 1984; Scabini and Donati, 1988). In 1988 Scabini and Donati had used the expression "young adulthood" to describe the period in individual life when one has reached full biological maturity whilst lacking adult responsibilities. During the transition, young people combine adult goals, such as financial independence and work, with typically adolescent features, such as an emotional dependence on parents and the inability to make long-term plans. An intergenerational approach (Scabini and Cigoli, 1997; Scabini and Donati, 1988; Scabini and Rossi, 2007) in studying the transition to adulthood sheds light on the different generations involved, detecting its implications for the family and society. The transition to adulthood challenges the family's capacity to move from parental to social generativity (Cigoli and Scabini, 2006), which implies an intergenerational exchange of values (De St. Aubin et al., 2004). The family expresses its generativity through procreating, caring and letting go. The fact that the younger generation has received from the previous one creates a commitment to both reciprocate and give to the following generation (Scabini and Iafrate, 2003; Scabini and Rossi, 2007). In this sense, the transition to adulthood is the phase where the intergenerational passage takes place, and this passage is now increasingly problematic. As early as 1988, Donati observed a "generational chaos" and a "crisis in generational roles": the impossibility to determine the life course of individuals makes it hard to identify generations at a social level, although an equal intergenerational distribution of resources is crucial to social wellbeing. …

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.