Getting There: Generations X and Y on Changing Ages, Stages and Processes of Social Maturation in Postmodern Times

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Landon, Kelly Suzanne




This research was inductive and used grounded theory methodology to explore and analyze social maturity, individualization and personal life. Through a discussion of generations and a re-tracing of sociological developmental models of the family and psychological models of individual psycho-social development I have re-contextualized and re-framed the concept of the QLC. The data consisted of: 1) newsprint media; 2) popular literature and self-help books; and 3) twenty-seven qualitative, face-to-face interviews; and 4) autoethnographic field notes of the author's personal experience. The participants presented as the social hosts of two sets of generationally specific cultural norms and expectations. These often conflicting generational discourses can be detected in their narratives between their descriptions of their expectations for their twenties and the everyday, lived reality of those years. Changing the order and timing of social development on the individual level has an impact on the taken for granted 'common sense' concept of 'growing-up.' As women told their ‘coming of age’ stories, it became increasingly clear that they were often talking about ‘getting there,’ and about adulthood as a journey and a process rather than simply a destination with a series of set stages. Some of the processes that women engaged in were: 1) questioning and re-defining of the meaning and markers of 'growing-up' for themselves; 2) taking responsibility for and care of themselves and/or others; 3) making decisions autonomously; 4) actively re-constructing their identity; and 5) coordinating their ‘personal life.’ I see this as reflective of the process of individualization and the impact of neoliberal discourses. Further, as a sociological extension to Oliver Robinson’s psychological model for the QLC, I have argued that social barriers can also create quarterlife challenges where people, women in particular, experience standing on the outside of expected and desired roles because of actual social, political, and economic barriers rather than being trapped by the individual’s psychological ‘illusion’ of being ‘stuck’ in an unwanted relationship or work role, as Robinson suggests.


Individual and Family Studies
Sociology - Theory and Methods
Women's Studies




Carleton University

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