With a little help from my friends: Social networks and the transition to adulthood
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The transition to adulthood has become an extended period in a young person's life, now occurring over a longer period of time and with more variability in the timing and sequencing of events. While a large body of research on this transition has focused on the modal path of young adults, recently scholars have become interested in understanding more about variation in adulthood outcomes. However, this research has mainly examined how differences in status characteristics and social location lead to different pathways. This dissertation builds on that research by examining: (1) how heterogeneity in adulthood outcomes can occur among individuals of similar status characteristics and (2) how social network members help to explain this variation. Using interviews with 60 young adults who were all 30 years old plus interviews and focus groups with four small friendship groups, I find that the process of becoming an adult is shaped, in part, by the networks in which young people are embedded. In the wake of a diminished societal model of adulthood, social network members function as a resource for young people as they make their way out of adolescence. While young people rely on group level resources to assist with this stage in the life course, the types of support a network can offer to an individual differ from one network to the next. This research finds that the variation in group level resources offered to young adults may be part of the reason why demographically similar young people experience the transition to adulthood differently.