Welcome to UP2YOUTH: Youth - actor of social change

Youth Print
Youth is a time of individualisation in biography.

As such youth is a social construction formed as an answer to modern individualisation demands. Youth was developed as a subjective and objective social category among the bourgeoisie in the end of 18 th century. In the new commercial and industrial society people had to develop competencies as individual actors in politics, commerce and industry. This individualisation process soon found its form in school and educational institutions, extended from male bourgeois young people to female and other social classes and created youth in education among most young people. In late modern society youth exists as an objective and a subjective reality to all young people. “Youth life” has become a most central – and popular- social category and an opportunity formed by educational life, political life and especially commercial life. Youth therefore is often seen as a necessary transition phase in-between childhood and adulthood.

The concept of teen-ager, which originally was invented by commercial life in 1950thies, points to this special youth life-time. Youth as a time of individualisation in biography today is in a change. At the one hand individualisation is changing. In late modern consumer society individuals become more dependent on their own competencies and their own self-understanding. The level of agency among young people is increasing. Therefore also the biographical dimension is changing. Youth time has been prolonged. Youth starts earlier in children’s life and last longer. Today “teenies” is the new concept for early youth and “young adults” conceptualise the new yo-yo situation of youth in their twenties placed somewhere in-between youth and adulthood.

Youth life is also formed by youth culture. As part of the 1968-revolt young people developed their own and anti-authoritarian youth lifestyles. Youth cultures express the youth-time lifestyle especially according to youth appearances, values and activities.

In the discussion of youth, the concepts of adolescence, youth identity and youth self-understanding has been seen as important to individual and psychological development. The concept of adolescence points to a psychological perspective on young people. Young people are seen as having a special psychology based on or influenced by biological or hormonal development. In psychological theories therefore young people are described as “in their puberty”. (SM)


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EGRIS (2001) Misleading Trajectories: Transition Dilemmas of Young Adults in Europe.  Journal of Youth Studies, vol4, no 1 101-118.
Furlong, Andy & Cartmel, Fred (1997) Young people and social change. Open University Press. Buckingham.
Mørch, Sven (2001) Some Basic Issues in Youth Research, in: Guidikova, Irena &  Williamson, Howard (eds): Youth Research in Europe: The Next Generation. Council of Europe Publishing.
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Last Updated ( Monday, 22 May 2006 )

Project supported by funding under the European Union's Sixth Research Framework Programme - Coordinated by IRIS e.V.

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