Volume 44 - Article 42 | Pages 1023–1056  

A potential new pattern of pathway to adulthood is emerging in China

By Dianxi Wang, Yufeng Zhao


Background: Existing literature has found that the ways in which people transition to adulthood has changed substantially in most Western countries since the late 1960s, but few studies have investigated such changes in the Chinese context.

Objective: This study examines a new pattern in family and work-related roles during the transition to adulthood among Chinese youth born between 1930 and 1979.

Methods: The China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study conducted in 2014 provides life history data for consecutive years. Multichannel sequence analysis is applied to 19,002 respondents to identify the clusters of trajectories to adulthood. Multinomial logistic regression is used to estimate the likelihood of belonging to each of the clusters of pathways to adulthood.

Results: We identify a new pattern, characterized by growing diversity and delay, in the transition to adulthood, which was mainly reflected in the long studies and stable employment cluster in the domain of employment and the staying single longer cluster in the field of family life course. Males and urban residents were more likely to fall into the patterns characterized by high education, stable work, and late transition. Female and rural residents tended to fall into the categories characterized by low education, agricultural work, and early transition.

Conclusions: The trajectories to adulthood exhibited by Chinese youth are policy-driven and nonautonomous and have been affected by government policies.

Contribution: We provide a comprehensive picture of the transition to adulthood of young adults in China and highlight the impact of state policies on their trajectories to adulthood.

Author's Affiliation

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