The study on childhood experience and the pattern of transition to adulthood: the perspective of life course

WANG Dianxi1

(1.Postdoctoral Research Station of China University of Political Science and Law)

【Abstract】Based on the retrospective survey data regarding life course, this paper takes the five cohorts born between 1930 and 1979 as examination objects, explores the trajectory pattern of the individuals’ transition to adulthood, and analyzes the influence of childhood experience on the individuals’ transition to adulthood. According to the findings, regarding the life course of the individuals’ transition to adulthood, the trajectory types could be divided into early transition, progressive transition, turning transition and late transition. The pattern of transition to adulthood has undergone the structural evolution process from tradition to modernity. Regarding the relationship between childhood experience and the pattern of transition to adulthood, the family economic conditions and friendship quality in childhood have obvious cumulative effects. The higher the family economic status in childhood, the more the individuals tend to the type of early transition to adulthood; the better the friendship quality in childhood, the higher the probability that the individuals belong to the type of late transition. Along with the process from tradition to modernity in the pattern of transition to adulthood, the longitudinal influencing factors of transition to adulthood have undergone the process of transforming from advantageous family economic status in childhood to high-quality peer relationship.

【Keywords】 childhood experience; transition to adulthood; life course; sequence analysis;


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    [1]. (1) The respondents of CHARLS are adults aged 45 or above. If calculating by the year of the survey (2014), the youngest cohort in the survey should be the people born in the late 1960s. However, when using the life course data from the 2014 CHARLS, the author discovers that the data include some survey samples born in the 1970s. Though the sample size is smaller than that of those born in the 1950s and the 1960s, there is still a great research value. Thus, this study also includes the birth cohort born in the 1970s into the scope of analysis. [^Back]

    [2]. (2) A and B respectively represent different life course states of transition to adulthood. T1, T2 and T3 respectively represent three different time points or ages. The matrix on the right side of the figure is the distance matrix of life course trajectory sequences of different individuals’ transition to adulthood. [^Back]

    [3]. (3) The cluster analysis provides the test indexes to examine the validity of the results, in which HG (Hubert’s Gamma) = 0.32, HGSD (Hubert’s Somers D) = 0.32, HC (Hubert’s C) = 0.34, indicating that the category structure identification is basically effective. [^Back]

    [4]. (4) The cohort distribution of the types of transition to adulthood has also verified the rationality of the categorization of trajectory types by this study. The early transition type is mainly formed by the birth cohort born early between 1940 and 1949, belonging to the traditional transition type. The late transition type is formed by the birth cohort born late, focusing on the trajectory of transition to adulthood after the demographic transition. The progressive transition type is mainly formed by the birth cohort born between 1950 and 1959. It is in the first stage of the transition from traditional type to modern type, that is, from the married and employed state with three children to the married and employed state with two children. The turning transition type is mainly formed by two birth cohorts (1950–1959 and 1960–1969), and at the turning point of the transition from traditional type to modern type. [^Back]

    [5]. (5) Figure 2 visualizes the proportions of different types of life course states of transition to adulthood. Light grey color represents the unmarried and employed state without child (SNC, EM); medium grey color represents the married and employed state with one child (M1C, EM); heavy gray color represents the married and employed state with two children (M2C, EM); and black color represents the married and employed state with three or more children (M3C, EM). In order to highlight the main states and facilitate presentation, the states that account for small proportions are combined and represented by white color. [^Back]


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This Article


CN: 11-3280/C

Vol , No. 02, Pages 1-13+94

March 2019


Article Outline


  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Childhood experience and transition to adulthood: theoretical review and empirical study
  • 3 Data, method and variables
  • 4 Analysis of empirical results
  • 5 Conclusion and discussion
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