Independence and relationality in notions of adulthood across generations, gender and social class
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSociological Review. 2021, 69 (1), 123-138 10.1177/0038026120931425
The adult person is in sociological literature often referred to as a genderless and classless being. As a life course phase it is implicitly viewed as a static destination after a dynamic transition period of youth. The aim of this article is to empirically examine perceptions of adulthood in biographical interviews in three-generation Norwegian families. A case-based biographical approach related to gender and social class across historical periods is at the core of the analysis. Thoughts on independence and the Mead-inspired concept of relationality are used as sensitising concepts to examine general ideals and personal considerations in notions of adulthood. The analyses indicate variations over historical periods, generations and life course phases wherein relationality or independence become significant. Relationality may take on different meanings with reference to period-specific gender expectations such as the male provider role and women as the primary carer in families in the oldest generations. Ideals of individual independence as choice or necessity vary according to life course phase, social class and period-specific conditions.