The thesis is a study of change in the transition from youth to adulthood in
contemporary Britain. Through an analysis of data collected in a survey of young
adults and their parents, undertaken in conjunction with a critical appraisal of more
general evidence on the organisation of employment and life cycle processes, the
thesis explores the social organisation of dependency and obligation. Following the
recession and mass unemployment in the early 1980s there has been an increasing
interest in the consequences of economic change for life cycle processes. Several
writers have explored the question of whether employment restructuring has
disrupted the attainment of adult lifestyles, and citizenship rights, amongst recent
cohorts of young people. Research, however, has reached contradictory conclusions
over the significance of economic change for patterns of transition to adulthood.
Another problem is the failure of research to locate youth adequately in relation to
the social structure. Further, the coherence of gender processes in the organisation
of transition has been obscured, since the life cycles of men and women are
conventionally seen to be structured around different principles. It is an argument of
the thesis that these problems are related, and arise from an inadequate
consideration of the interrelations which give meaning to youth and transition as life
cycle stages. Existing studies of family related life cycle transitions and studies of the
youth labour market both embody, and reflect, a conceptual division between 'social'
and 'economic' processes. This division, however, does not reflect real processes. The
framework developed in the thesis offers an integrated analysis of life cycle dynamics
and economic processes, through which changes in the organisation of transitions
from youth to adulthood are explained.