International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 265–274 | Cite as

Does timing and sequencing of transitions to adulthood make a difference? stress, smoking, and physical activity among young australian women

  • Sandra Bell
  • Christina Lee


The major changes of the transition to adulthood are argued to be stressful, and health-related behaviors such as smoking and physical activity may be adopted, consolidated, or abandoned at this time. On the other hand, research has suggested that the normative transitions of emerging adulthood, although involving considerable change, may be associated with low stress because they are perceived as both positive and normal at this life stage. This article examines relations between the timing and sequencing of life transitions and stress and health-related behaviors, focusing on the transition to young adulthood among Australian women. A total of 853 women aged 22 to 27 provided information about the timing and sequencing of 6 life transitions: moving out of home, stopping full-time education, starting full-time work, having the first live-in relationship, marriage, and motherhood—and stress, smoking, and physical activity. Most had moved out of home, stopped full-time education, and started full-time work, but only 14% had undertaken all 6 transitions. Overall, 70% of participants had made transitions “in order.” Overall, the findings suggest that the relations between timing and sequencing of transitions, and indicators of health, are moderate for smoking, but small for stress and for physical activity. These effects remained after controlling for socioeconomic status of the participants’families of origin. Matching current social norms for the timing and sequencing of life changes may be of less importance for women’s well-being than is commonly believed. Although the significant relations between early or “out of order” transitions and smoking are of concern, the smaller relations with stress and with sedentariness suggest that such transitions may have limited negative consequences, and support the view that individuals are active in choosing the life path that is appropriate for them and their circumstances.


Physical Activity Young Adulthood Australian Bureau Life Change Australian Woman 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Centre for Gender & Health, University of NewcastleAustralia
  2. 2.School of Psychology, University of QueenslandAustralia

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