Faces of Uncertain Transitions to Adulthood – in Different Fields of Education

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 4:45 PM
Room: F204
Distributed Paper
Alexandra KÖNIG , Sociology, University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany
The faces of uncertain transitions to adulthood vary between different countries. But they also differ within countries. Germany and its’ manifold fields of education are ideal cases for studying the phenomena in question.

Using data from a quantitative and qualitative longitudinal study on orientations, strategies and decisions of adolescents upon leaving school, we will carve out different patterns of uncertain transitions to adulthood.

In our presentation we will

(a) show how the transition to adulthood is structured in different fields of education (e.g., in a paternalistic apprenticeship based on an old master-pupil model; in an art academy which offers independence but uncertain job chances);

(b) differentiate between forms of uncertainty (e.g., to secure the livelihoods in the long term, to find the scope for self-realisation, to live alone);

(c) discuss how the adolescents cope with uncertainty, how they design their future and their self.

The sample of our study contains trainees in vocational training (hairdressers, painters) and university students (art, teaching/engineering). The sample composition allows a comparison of adolescents in different fields of education in Germany.

There are different theoretical options and viewpoints to get a perspective on transitions to adulthood. In context of our research project, we link theories of interactionism (e.g., Meads processual concept of “self”; Strauss’ concept of “status passage”) with Bourdieu’s theory of social inequality (and his concept of “field”) to understand the strategies and orientations of adolescents at the threshold to adulthood.