New adulthood

personal or social transition?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution


The life course is part of our taken-for-granted stock of knowledge, even though the temporal boundaries of its phases have shifted under pressure from changing conditions. A case in point is adolescence. Previously largely overlapping with the teen-age period, it has now been extended to cover what used to be young adulthood. The reason lies in the way of life of many individuals in this age group (roughly 18-30) which no longer corresponds to generally accepted features of adulthood, most particularly economic independence and social stability. In the social sciences a sub-category of postadolescence has emerged as a label for such lifestyles. In turn, the media and marketing professionals have captured the emergent phenomenon labelling its progenitors kidults, adultescents, rejuveniles, etc. While implicitly acknowledging change, these labels are conservative since they rest on established assumptions about what it means to be adult. I challenge this position and argue that social forces have propelled young people into patterns of action inconceivable to the previous generation. Through this, rather than eschewing adulthood per se, they have forged a new adulthood. On both theoretical and empirical grounds, I suggest that the putative postadolescents do not need to catch up with 'normal' adulthood. Rather, we need to develop a new understanding of what adulthood means in the social world people are facing today – a world which is very different from the one in which the previous generation has had its maturity acknowledged.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial change in the 21st century
Subtitle of host publicationconference proceedings
EditorsC. Bailey, L. Buys
Place of PublicationBrisbane
PublisherCentre for Social Change Research, School of Humanities and Human Services, Queensland University of Technology
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)1741071089
Publication statusPublished - 2005
EventConference on Social Change in the 21st Century - Brisbane
Duration: 28 Oct 200528 Oct 2005


ConferenceConference on Social Change in the 21st Century



  • adulthood
  • postadolescence
  • social change
  • recognition
  • sociology

Cite this

Blatterer, H. (2005). New adulthood: personal or social transition? In C. Bailey, & L. Buys (Eds.), Social change in the 21st century: conference proceedings Brisbane: Centre for Social Change Research, School of Humanities and Human Services, Queensland University of Technology.