Subjective Age Identity and the Transition to Adulthood

Michael J. Shanahan, Erik J. Porfeli, Jeylan T. Mortimer and Lance D. Erickson

in On the Frontier of Adulthood

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780226748894
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226748924 | DOI:
Subjective Age Identity and the Transition to Adulthood

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For many decades, scholars held that five transition markers delineated entry into adulthood: completing school, leaving home, beginning one's career, marrying, and becoming a parent. Based on these five criteria, however, the percentage of youth in their twenties and thirties who would qualify as adult has decreased significantly in recent decades. Drawing on data from the Youth Development Study, this chapter assesses the importance of the traditional transition markers and personal qualities in predicting whether young people view themselves as adult. It begins by briefly considering the conceptual and empirical basis for claims about the changing nature of adult identity. It then discusses the conceptual basis of “emerging adulthood” and subjective age identity before presenting empirical evidence for conceptions of adulthood. The results show that: the respondents distinguish among dimensions of self-perceived adulthood; family transitions significantly distinguish youth who feel not at all or somewhat like an adult from those that feel entirely like an adult; financial independence significantly, positively predicted self-perceived adulthood. Taken together, these results support the expectation that family transition markers and self-perceived adulthood are interrelated.

Keywords: adulthood; Youth Development Study; young people; emerging adulthood; subjective age identity; self-perceived adulthood; family transitions; financial independence; personal qualities; adult transitions

Chapter.  10779 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

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