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In brief

Becoming Adult: changing youth transitions in the 21st century

By Liza Catan

Trust for the Study of Adolescence pound;10.95 plus pound;1.65 pamp;p (order at or from TSA, 23 New Road, Brighton BN1 1WZ)

I said to a 17-year-old I met on holiday, "When I was your age I was much younger than you." It raised a laugh, but it was noticeable that everyone who heard the remark nodded their understanding of it. Today's young people, after all, are more worldly-wise than their parents and grandparents were; more knowledgeable about (and experienced in) such matters as sex, driving, clothing, drink and recreational drugs.

And yet, as this book tells us, there's a counter-current that's equally likely to evoke nods of agreement. This speaks of the growing difficulties facing today's young people as they try to attain the markers of adulthood.

Liza Catan tells us: "Arguably the most consistent message to come from youth research over the past decade and a half has been that youth transitions are lengthening and that consequently young people remain, to varying extents, dependent on support from their families of origin and, where this is limited, in need of support and protection by the state." The reasons are also recognisable: extended periods of education; higher housing costs; fewer entry level jobs that pay well.

This slim (66-page) book is necessarily a condensed and frill-free read, summarising several years of work by 64 people on the 17 separate projects which make up the Economic and Social Research Council's programme, Youth, Citizenship and Social Change. It bears close reading, though, and will be of particular interest to all who deal educationally or socially with people in their late teens and beyond.

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