Arrested Adulthood

Arrested Adulthood: The Changing Nature of Maturity and Identity

James E. Côté
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Arrested Adulthood
    Book Description:

    Why are today's adults more like adolescents, in their dress and personal tastes, than ever before? Why do so many adults seem to drift and avoid responsibilities such as work and family? As the traditional family breaks down and marriage and child rearing are delayed, what makes a person an adult?Many people in the industrial West are simply not "growing up" in the traditional sense. Instead, they pursue personal, individual fulfillment and emerge from a vague and prolonged youth into a vague and insecure adulthood. The transition to adulthood is becoming more hazardous, and the destination is becoming more difficult to reach, if it is reached at all.Arrested Adulthood examines the variety of young people's responses to this new situation. James E. Ct shows us adults who allow the profit-driven industries of mass culture to provide the structure that is missing, as their lives become more individualistic and atomized. He also shows adults who resist anomie and build their world around their sense of personal connectedness to others. Finally, Ct provides a vision of a truly progressive society in which all members can develop their potentials apart from the influence of the market. In so doing, he gives us a clearer vision of what it means to be an adult and makes sense of the longest, but least understood period of the life course.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6399-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    As strange as it may seem, my desire to write this book on adulthood springs from my previous research into the nature of adolescence. That research revealed two features of adolescence that are contrary to most people’s commonsense conceptions of the period between childhood and adulthood: (1) adolescence takes different forms in different cultures and over time, and (2) adolescence is becoming longer and longer, especially in late modern societies. The second point led me to consider the possibility that for large numbers of people, prolonged adolescence—and more recently “youth”—now takes up much, if not all, of what...

  4. I The Changing Nature of Maturity
    • 1 Maturity Transformed: The Rise of Psychological Adulthood
      (pp. 11-44)

      Luigi is a thirty-three-year-old man who lives with his parents in Naples, Italy. His mother does his laundry, and she cooks for him when he bothers to join his parents for meals. He pays neither room nor board but takes his casual girlfriends home when he needs a place to sleep with them. His parents do not mind any of this. They are glad to have their boy so close to them. An ad campaign in Italy refers to the 50% of Italian men between twenty-five and thirty-four years of age living with their parents asmammoni, or mama’s boys....

    • 2 The Science of Adulthood: How Do I Know When I’m Grown Up? Who’s Going to Tell Me?
      (pp. 45-78)

      The evidence regarding human development, some of which was reviewed in the first chapter, gives us two messages: (1) the rise of psychological adulthood has opened the door for a greater proportion of the population to seek higher and more fulfilling forms of personal development, but (2) it does not appear that the bulk of the population is doing so. Given that the adult populations of Western countries are more highly educated than any previous citizenry, it is indeed a puzzle why so few people are reaching the heights of personal development. Robert Kegan titled his bookIn over Our...

    • 3 The Brave New Adult: Models of Maturity for Mass Society
      (pp. 79-116)

      In chapter 1 we saw that not only is adulthood a vague concept, but many people’s experience of it is now fraught with vagaries as well. It appears, further, that not only is guidance for the passageintoadulthood deficient or absent for many people, but there is even less guidancethroughadulthood. It became evident in chapter 2 that an increasing number of people are left to their own wits to define what it means to be an adult; during their deliberations they are enticed to take various paths of least resistance and effort. Adults as a group appear...

  5. II The Changing Nature of Identity
    • 4 Identity Transformed: The Decline of Authority and Structure
      (pp. 119-154)

      Thus far we have seen how the changes associated with various phases in the rise of capitalism have made “identity” more problematic. This is most evident in the consequences of mass society during early modernity and more recently in the effects of mass culture during late modernity. However, we have not specifically examined how the psychological and social components of identity have been affected, nor have we examined the ramifications of a society in which the bulk of the population experiences these components of their identities as problematic. In this chapter we focus on these issues.

      In this section we...

    • 5 The Brave New Society: Forever Young in a High-Tech World
      (pp. 155-186)

      The belief in progress is widespread, supported by the vast majority of the population. Capitalism, in its various forms, has been the major engine of progress for the past five centuries. Surely the average citizen of the Western nations is better off materially and is healthier as a result of the technological progress made possible by capitalism. Yet, what can we say about capitalism’s social advancements? Is the average citizen of the Western nations better off in terms of life-satisfaction, a sense of meaning, or spirituality? And just how much have the advances been distributed across the entire populations of...

  6. III Coming to Grips with Late Modernity:: New Forms of Maturity and Identity
    • 6 Learning to Love an Indefinite Future?
      (pp. 189-222)

      Five hundred years of capitalism have irrevocably altered the course of human history. Not only have Western cultures been transformed, but also the influence of capitalism is now global in proportion. As I have tried to emphasize—anticipating critics who will try to dismiss some of my arguments regarding capitalism—there have most certainly been tremendous benefits associated with the history of capitalism. But the world is complex, and one cannot take it all in with a one-sided view that looks only at those benefits and is afraid to consider the possibility that capitalism has some deleterious effects. Even if...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 223-228)
  8. References
    (pp. 229-240)
  9. Index
    (pp. 241-244)
  10. About the Author
    (pp. 245-246)