On the threshold of adulthood Recurrent phenomena and developmental tasks during the period of young adulthood

University dissertation from Stockholm : Pedagogiska institutionen

Abstract: The aim of the dissertation is to investigate the own narratives told by young adults in the age group 18 to 25 years old about strains in life, ideas about the background to these, and attitudes now and in an imagined future. The emerging recurrent phenomena form the basis for a deeper understanding of the developmental tasks of young adults. Gender variances and changes over time are focused upon. The investigation is based on three distinct theoretical perspectives: developmental psychology, social constructionism and personal epistemology.The methods used vary according to the focus in four separate studies: (1) The Interview study is based on the narratives of 23 informants. A qualitative analysis was carried out and central themes are presented at group level. (2) In the Questionnaire study, a bird’s eye view is taken. A quantitative analysis was performed on 611 respondents’ answers about their own attitudes and experienced background to strains. (3) In the Follow-up study, 21 informants from the Interview study were interviewed again after eighteen months. (4) The Case study scrutinizes in detail four informants’ narratives about strains and attitudes on three occasions, over a total of three years. The combination of three different theoretical and three different methodological perspectives was used to make recurrent phenomena more visible, enabling the formulation of developmental tasks during this period of life.The most prominent phenomenon concerning strains is to become someone in the world. This is interpreted as an individuation process, which is a specific developmental task. Depression-like conditions occur and are understood to be transitional expressions of developmental-related sorrow. A spectrum based on prominent attitudes is formulated: vegetative being – creative being – productive doing – warding-off doing. The spectrum includes both problem-solving and problem-distancing attitudes. Common for men and for women is a movement between the problem-distancing and the problem-solving attitudes. The attitudes differ between men and women. Over time, a greater range of problem-solving attitudes is used, and they become less gender-specific. The problem-distancing attitudes decrease, both within the group of women and the group of men, but are still as gender-specific. As time passes, the narratives about the background to strains and future attitudes gain an increased number of themes. These changes are interpreted as a maturity process within the age group. Most of the young adults convey a hopeful view of the future.