The developmental phase between childhood and adulthood is often labeled adolescence. This lifecycle phase, common to all societies, involves the acquisition of human and social capital, the consolidation of personal identity, and the emergence of a sense of personal efficacy (Mensch, Bruce, and Greene, 1998). It is a phase of life during which young people have many first-time experiences, including travel or residence away from home, paid work, sex, military service, unemployment, engagement, marriage, and birth. It is also a time during which young people emerge from dependency on their parents and other family members and acquire a growing scope for agency in their lives. Adolescence is now recognized in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (ICRC) as a phase of “evolving capacities” requiring a balance of societal and familial protections, respect for rights, and opportunity for voice (United Nations General Assembly, 1989).
Although the ICRC defines legal adulthood as occurring by age 18, the developmental aspects of this phase of the lifecycle may continue past the teens and into the early to mid-20s. The social roles associated with adulthood include worker, spouse, parent, and household manager. By a certain age, society recognizes everyone as an adult, whether or not they have acquired any of these roles. If one or more of these roles is assumed during the teens, however, this does not necessarily mean that adulthood has been fully achieved if certain developmental tasks are not yet complete or if young people themselves have not had an opportunity to play a role in the decision-making process. Indeed, this shift in the locus of decision making over the course of the transition challenges current approaches to household allocation models, which tend to assume that married people regardless of age are decision makers, while unmarried young people who do not head their own households are not.
For the first part of the chapter, we build on an earlier U.S. literature that traces key transitions during adolescence and young adulthood, including exit from school, entrance into the labor market, and first marriage, as well as various indicators of mobility. Winsborough (1978) focused on trends over 30 years in the timing and duration of four transitions for young American males: exit from school, entrance into the labor market, entrance into the military, and first marriage. For each transition, he measured the age at which 25 percent, 50 percent, and 75 percent of each age cohort had made each transition, and he measured the duration of the transition as the mean years elapsed between the age at which the first 25 percent completed the transition and the age at which the first 75 percent completed the transition. He found a trend toward a later start to the