Introducing the research of the first Policy Press-funded studentship: the transition to adulthood of young graduates across Europe

The transition to adult-life of the current twenty-something generation is often described by the media and in current policy debates as “extended”, “delayed” or “problematic”. In a very popular article appearing in the New York Times Arnett describes the psychological conditions of what he calls “emerging adulthood”. Recent cohorts of twenty-something are experiencing a delay in their cognitive transition to adult life, hence they think, behave or plan their life as if they are not yet adults.

Arnett’s analysis of emerging adulthood is useful for understanding the characteristics of current cohorts of young people: growing up in post-modern fragmented society (Beck’s “risk society”) has psychological implications in the transition to adulthood, in terms of ‘fragmentation’ or ‘social anxiety’ (Giddens, 1991). However, as Arnett’s analysis is American-centred and conducted with a development psychology perspective, it appears affected by an overall assumption on the central role of individuals. The role of structures in post-modern paths of transitions is a much less explored topic. Do young people currently have structures around them that permit a smoother transition to adulthood? In which respect do these structures influence their delayed transition?

These questions are at the centre of the recent PhD studentship funded by Policy Press which aims to explore these issues from the point of view of social policy and by using a welfare analysis. The main goal of the study is to show how different welfare structures influence the transition to adult life of young graduates in England, Sweden and Italy. British scholars like Furlong and Cartmel have already emphasised the importance of the structures in determining a different ‘quality’ of transition to adult life. Arnett himself pointed out in his analysis how “becoming an adult today means becoming self-sufficient, learning to stand alone as an independent person” (2004: 209). Welfare structures may be considered central in this analysis as they impact greatly on the “dependency” or “independency” of young people in the transition to adulthood.

This PhD study considers, in particular, the role of work, family and the state in transition to adulthood of young graduates from disadvantaged families. Debates regarding graduate studies and social mobility have mainly focussed on ‘access to higher education’. This assumes that the experience of young graduates would have been similar across social classes or that the increasing access to higher education of young people from disadvantaged families would have automatically improved social justice and social mobility. This type of assumption is currently challenged by pioneering studies regarding the social conditions of graduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds in Anglo-Saxon countries, in particular in the analysis by Furlong and Cartmel in Scotland. As the burden of students’ loans and debts become diffused across Europe new issues emerge concerning social disparities of this type of transition to adulthood.

The studentship aims to address these issues using a European comparative analysis across welfare regimes of transitions and proposing methodological tools for the exploration of the psycho-welfare of youth transitions. These topics will be covered further in future posts.

Lorenza Antonucci

0 Responses to “Introducing the research of the first Policy Press-funded studentship: the transition to adulthood of young graduates across Europe”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Helen Kara

Writing and research

Peter Beresford's Blog

Musings on a Mad World

Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling

Path to the Possible

Democracy toward the Horizon


Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

Shot by both sides

The blog of Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP

Paul Collins's Running Blog

Running and London Marathon 2013 Training

Bristol Civic Leadership Project

A collaborative project on change in local governance

Stuck on Social Work

And what a great place to be

Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society

short and insightful writing about a long and complex history

Urban policy and practice

Publishing with a purpose


Policy Politics Place


Publishing with a purpose

Public Administration Review

Public Administration Review is a professional journal dedicated to advancing theory and practice in public administration.


European Politics and Policy

%d bloggers like this: