Conceptualising Adulthood in the Transition Society Context – The Case of Estonia

Raili Nugin


The paper focuses on the conception of adulthood in post-communist Estonia, a society that has undergone vast structural, institutional and cultural changes. To this end, 179 essays written by high school graduates in five Estonian schools are analyzed.1 It is argued that the conceptualisation of adulthood is contextual and young people position and conceptualise themselves in the framework of these changes. Youth in Estonia, like their peers in Western Countries, stress intangible features (such as responsibility, mental maturity, social maturity, freedom) along with measurable transitions (employment, marriage, parenthood) when conceptualising adulthood. However, the meanings behind the concepts differ and are valued differently among respondents. This paper aims to provide a glance into what meanings are given to these perceptions. The most prevalent themes picked up by respondents were institutional transitions, responsibility and social maturity. Such prevalence is plausible, since these features in the transition to adulthood have changed the most in recent decades: the institutional context has changed and measurable transitions have prolonged; the level of individual responsibility in transitions has grown and the society has transformed.


transition to adulthood; adulthood conceptualization; emerging adulthood; Estonia; postcommunist cultural changes

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