TitleAre Conceptions of Adulthood Universal and Unisex? Ages and Social Markers in 25 European Countries
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsSpeder, Z, Murinko, L, Settersten, RA
JournalSocial Forces
Date Published03/2014

Despite ample research on behavioral aspects of the transition to adulthood, few comparative studies have focused on “subjective” facets. Using data from the European Social Survey, we probe similarities and differences in conceptions of adulthood for men and women in twenty-five European countries. We examine perceptions of the age of adulthood and the importance of four social markers (leaving home, having a full-time job, living with a partner or spouse, and becoming a parent). Results reveal a shared European idea about age, with men consistently reaching adulthood later than women. The significance of various markers, however, shows greater heterogeneity across nations. Country differences go beyond welfare state classification and underscore the importance of value systems. Conceptions for men and women are surprisingly similar. While economic independence matters more for men's lives, it is nonetheless salient for women. Even more, family formation now seems a unisex organizer of the life course.