Blurred transitions: revisiting the significance of work and parenthood for young adults in Italy
Political Science University of Caglieri Cagliari, Italy
Sociology and Social Research University of Milan-Bicocca Milan, Italy
Almost everywhere in Europe, corresponding to the transformations in post-industrial societies, transition from youth to adulthood are being prolonged and de-standardised (White and Wyn 2008), and welfare measures minimised. This in turn puts pressure on parents and young people. Within the group of Southern European countries, Italy is characterised by low levels of welfare provision and reliance on the family as a form of support (Ferrera 2006). However, young adults in Italy constitute a case in its own right for a particularly delayed transition to adulthood. Not only scholars but also national and international press heavily attack them with the accusation that they have lost freshness and potential in public life. The question is then what conditions allow a young Italian to consider himself/herself an adult in the current cultural and social-political scenario.
International sociological literature on life cycle agrees in identifying five thresholds which have to be overcome in order to reach adulthood. Among these, we concentrate on obtaining a stable working position and becoming parent. Findings from our two different research projects strongly converge in criticizing the necessity, for the young adults interviewed, to refer to such thresholds. Within a situation of growing contingency, "yo-yo" modalities have been identified (Walther 2006) to interpret transitions which are not only prolonged and destandardised, but also uncertain and reversible. Pushing further in this direction, our interview material suggests to re-conceptualize the intrinsic value of reflexively "passing" turning points to consider oneself fully adult and to problematise adulthood itself as an unquestionable point of arrival.
Ferrera, M. (2006) "The Southern model of welfare in Social Europe " Journal of European Social Policy 6.
Walther, A. (2006). "Regimes of youth transitions. Choice, flexibility and security in young people's experiences across different European contexts " Young 14(2): 119-139.
White, R., and Wyn, J. (2008) (2nd Edition). Youth and Society: Exploring the Social Dynamics of Youth Experience, Oxford University Press: Melbourne.