New Barriers and Continuing Constraints
Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette
Chapter 1: Becoming Adult: The Persisting Importance of Class and Gender
Ingrid Schoon This chapter investigates changes in gender differences of young people’s educational and occupational aspirations and differences in the assumption of work and family-related adult roles. It has been argued that since the 1970s transitions into adulthood have become destandardised and more individualised, that is more variable and protracted, less normconforming and collectively patterned, and more strongly influenced by individual decision making and choice (Beck 1992; Giddens 1991). Much of the current debate regarding the destandardisation of the life course reflects ongoing speculations about the way in which transitions are changing – yet there is still a lack of systematic empirical evidence about how the life course has changed, if at all – and how it has differentiated across social groups (Elder and Shanahan 2007; Macmillan 2005), with one of the critical research gaps concerning changes in women’s transitions and careers. In the following I review findings based on two British birth cohorts, following the lives of over 20 000 men and women born in 1958 and 1970 respectively, to assess continuity and change in transitions to adult roles and to examine the antecedents for the transition pathways taken. Comparison of the two birth cohorts provides a unique window into the major socio-demographic changes that affected most developed Western countries during the second half of the last century. The 1958 cohort was born just at the end of a boom period, during a time of extraordinary economic growth and social transformation, while the 1970 cohort was born at the beginning of...
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