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Panel on Transitions to Adulthood in Developed Countries (2006-2009)

Francesco C. Billari (Italy)

Ann Evans (Australia)
Elizabeth Fussell (USA)
Aart C. Liefbroer (the Netherlands)
Laurent Toulemon (France)

Council Liaison
Peter McDonald

IUSSP Secretariat contact person
Paul Monet

Terms of Reference

The Panel approaches the notion of transitions to adulthood as the acquisition of various adult roles, including the transition from school to work, transitions to financial independence, residential independence, partnership (through cohabitation or marriage) and parenthood. The aim of the Panel for the 2006-2009 period is three-fold: (1) to explain patterns in transitions to adulthood across time and space using a multilevel, multidisciplinary approach; (2) to understand the consequences of these patterns for individuals, families, and societies; (3) to discuss and assess methods that are useful for the explanation of transitions to adulthood and for understanding their consequences.

Recent research, including research developed within the Panel during the 2003-2006 period, has shown that transitions to adulthood in developed countries vary greatly across societies, and often change quickly within a society. Also, societies are heterogeneous both because of social stratification and because of cultural variation. Institutional variation (i.e., welfare regimes) and cultural differences (e.g., normative expectations) are not sufficient per se to explain such variation across time and space. A multilevel approach, where macro-level determinants are studied together with micro-level determinants (at the family, household, or individual level) is therefore essential to explain transitions to adulthood. Meso-level factors (e.g., related to the community or to the region) may also play important roles. This macro-(meso)-micro explanatory framework will be pushed within the Panel.

The consequences of transitions to adulthood, especially when conceived as complex trajectories, have not been thoroughly investigated so far. Some of the social and economic consequences are known, e.g. the adverse consequences of teenage motherhood on education, work careers and income, although their international variation (and therefore the role of macro-level factors) is under-investigated. Other consequences, such as the demographic ones, are also under-investigated. For example, does the transition to adulthood matter for parenthood and fertility? Does it matter for union stability? This will constitute the second line of research within the Panel.
Methods for the study of transitions to adulthood have advanced significantly during recent years. Some have been used for complex descriptions (e.g., sequence analysis, information theory), others have been used in order to explain the transition to adulthood (e.g., hazard models and their generalisations, causal modelling). In the explanatory study of transitions to adulthood, as well as in the analysis of their consequences, the Panel aims to further explore methodological avenues that might shed new light on the subject. This approach should allow for the exploitation of best-practice longitudinal data available in a limited set of societies as well as other data that are more widely accessible.

Programme of activities

Seminar on Intergenerational Ties and Transitions to Adulthood
Milan, Italy, 8-9 November 2010

Call for Papers
Seminar Papers

Seminar on Early Adulthood in Time and Space: Multidimensional and Multilevel Perspectives
Paris, France, 26-27 June 2008

Call for Papers
Seminar Papers

Special session at the European Population Conference (EAPS), Barcelona 2008

Sesssions at the International Population Conference, IUSSP, Marrakech 2009

Reports and presentations from the previous Panel on Transition to adulthood in developed countries, chaired by Anne Gauthier (2003-2006), are available on the page of the previous panel.


Special issue of Advances in Life Course Research (ALCR), Volume 15, Issues 2-3,  Pages 53-120 (June-September 2010) on Demographic Perspectives on the Transition to Adulthood, edited by Aart C Liefbroer and Laurent Toulemon.

Special issue on “Becoming a Young Adult: An International Perspective on the Transitions to Adulthood", Anne H. Gauthier, ed., European Journal of Population, No 3-4 / October 2007.

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