Understanding Trust and Confidence among Young Adults - what can a Life Course Perspective Contribute?
Institute for Civil Society Studies Ersta Sköndal University College Stockholm, Sweden
The European debate on life course has often focused on transitions, in particular when discussing teenagers and young adults. Contemporary life course theorists argue that not only chronological age limits are obsolete but also the idea of fixed rites or experiences that signify growing up can be questioned, if used exclusively, in understanding their view of life.
Research on trust, particularly within sociology and political science, frequently uses empirical sources such as the so called generalized trust question. Critiques of this approach concern questions of uncertain validity, but also the vagueness of the concept of trust. Furthermore, trust has not been studied from a life course perspective.
Thus, the comprehensive objective of this paper is to explore to what extent and how chronological age and the passing of transition markers may be important for the experience of trust. Furthermore, I will attempt to characterize what is meant by trust and confidence among young adults and what kind of expressions trust takes among them.
Data used for this study is twofold. Starting by giving a setting of descriptive statistical figures from the fifth wave of the World Values Surveys I will answer questions of age structure concerning trust in Sweden and selected European countries. If data gathering has been completed I will also present some descriptive results from a unique survey on trust, confidence and risk among Swedish citizens (n= 12 000). The main empirical material, however, comes from qualitative exploratory interviews with young adults with different backgrounds at different stages of experiencing these transitions.
The preliminary results show that age itself is significantly distinguishing people's experience of trust, with widely varying levels within Europe, both generally and concerning particular forms of trust. Nevertheless, do traditional transitions not play a decisive role concerning trust. I will further elaborate on the characteristics of trust that seem to be important for young adults, topics such as dependence-independence, identity and different forms of trust, but also different objects of trust such as persons, institutions or abstract phenomena and figure out in what way a life course perspective can contribute to a deeper understanding of social trust.