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Sean Townshend and Meghan Gallaway ACF Abstract FY10

Societal and Personal Views of Criteria for Adulthood: A Cross-National Comparison

Conference Name: The 14th European Conference on Developmental Psychology

This poster aims to investigate how university students from modernized nations view criteria for adulthood from both a societal and personal perspective. Three countries were included in this study: Slovenia, Austria, and the United States. The facts that individuals in the late teens and early twenties in such nations tend to put off some criteria until later in life (e.g., marriage, start of career) and that there is a lack of clear markers of adulthood, the transition into adulthood has become of increasing interest to developmental psychology. Three central questions were asked here: (1) Which personal criteria of adulthood are most important? (2) How well defined are students’ conceptions of societal norms regarding adulthood? (3) Does the importance of these criteria vary across the three countries and/or between societal and personal perspectives?

N = 636 participants (210 in Austria, 201 in Slovenia, 225 in USA) (M = 21 years, SD = 1.8) completed the Conception of the Transition to Adulthood (Arnett, 1998). In this instrument they rated 38 specific criteria as personally important to becoming an adult or not, and also how important these same criteria were to the society that each participant lived in. These specific criteria comprised six larger categories, e.g., Role Transitions and Independence.

Nationality was found to be a significant factor for personal image of adulthood in four out of the six categories and for societal image of adulthood in three out of the six categories. To evaluate the strength of shared social norms, the standard deviations of societal and personal importance were compared. With one exception, there were no differences; this rather supports the claim that the societal criteria seem to be vague. In addition, the means of societal importance of criteria are higher than personal views, except in the case of the Independence category.

Sean Townshend, Meghan Gallaway, Wolfgang Friedlmeier Ph.D.,

*Ulrike Sirsch Ph.D., & **Melita Puklek-Levpuscek Ph.D.

Department of Psychology, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI, USA

*Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, Austria

**Department of Psychology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia