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

Ingrid Schoon, Meichu Chen, Dylan Kneale, Justin Jager


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.


comparative; longitudinal; social change; transitions; wellbeing

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