Becoming adults in Britain: lifestyles and wellbeing in times of social change


  • Ingrid Schoon Institute of Education University of London Dep. of Quantitative Social Science
  • Meichu Chen University of Michigan
  • Dylan Kneale International Longevity Centre
  • Justin Jager National Institute of Child Health and Human Development



comparative, longitudinal, social change, transitions, wellbeing


This study examines variations in the combination of social roles in early adulthood and their association with mental health, subjective wellbeing, and alcohol use in two nationally representative British birth cohorts, born in 1970 (n=9,897) and 1958 (n=9,171). Using latent class analysis (LCA) we develop a typology of variations in the combination of educational attainment, employment status, housing, relationship and parenthood status of cohort members in their mid-twenties.  We also assess the role of early socialisation experiences and teenage life planning as predictors of these status role combinations, and link transition outcomes by age 26 to measures of alcohol use, mental health and wellbeing. In both cohorts we identified five distinct profiles: ‘work-orientation without children’, ‘traditional families’, ‘fragile families’, ‘highly educated without children’, and ‘slow starters’. These profiles are predicted by family social background, gender, own educational expectations and exam performance at age 16. The findings suggest that in both cohorts, high levels of life satisfaction are associated with either ‘work orientation without children’ or ‘traditional family’ life, suggesting that there are different transition strategies enabling individuals to become well-adjusted adults.

Author Biography

Ingrid Schoon, Institute of Education University of London Dep. of Quantitative Social Science

Ingrid Schoon is Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at the Institute of Education, University of London, Director of the international post-doctoral Fellowship program PATHWAYS to Adulthood funded by the Jacobs Foundation, and Research Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Youth Transitions (CAYT) funded by the Department of Education. Her research interests are focused on the study of youth transitions, the intergenerational transmission of (dis)advantage, the study of risk and resilience, and the realization of individual potential in a changing socio-historical context.






Special Section: transition to adulthood in the UK, the US and Finland. Guest Editors: John Schulenberg, Ingrid Schoon