Furthermore, the panel was concerned not only about the acquisition of certain personal values and attributes necessary for success, but also about the timing and sequencing of their acquisition. When young people take on adult work or family obligations before finishing school, success may be compromised. If young men who have assumed other adult roles are unable to marry until their 30s because of escalating financial demands, their need for sexual expression may compromise their health and the health of others and deprive them of the pleasures of and social status that accompanies a family life. The panel recognizes that all adulthood roles are not acquired at the same time, and therefore the report refers to multiple transitions rather than a single transition. Indeed, the panel expects that success in one domain will foster success in other domains of adult life, allowing transitions in various domains to occur in a steady succession. Ultimately, the benefit and enjoyment of each role is enhanced by the acquisition of the others.


The panel agreed early in its deliberations that our approach to the charge would be highly empirical. The panel set high standards for evidence, placing an emphasis on comparative quantitative data of high quality, supplemented by well-designed and statistically sound experimental and observational studies along with country case studies and qualitative materials.

The panel developed its own conceptual framework in order to guide our interpretation of the empirical evidence and assess claims of causal inference. This conceptual framework is presented in Chapter 2. While the panel’s ambitions were as broad as the conceptual framework, the actual scope of the report was constrained by the availability of comparative and time-series data as well as by the limitations of existing empirical analyses of transitions to adulthood in developing countries, which are largely based on cross-sectional data.

The panel’s approach to addressing the questions outlined in the charge flows logically from the conceptual framework presented below and includes the following six elements:

  1. To use the conceptual framework as a guide to the identification of key research questions.

  2. To review existing research studies on trends in the contextual factors, transitions, and outcomes laid out in the conceptual framework and to supplement these with analysis of comparative data sets.

  3. To review existing literature for insights about possible factors explaining recent changes in the transition to adulthood.

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