© 2020

Youth and the New Adulthood

Generations of Change

  • Johanna Wyn
  • Helen Cahill
  • Dan Woodman
  • Hernán Cuervo
  • Carmen Leccardi
  • Jenny Chesters

Part of the Perspectives on Children and Young People book series (PCYP, volume 8)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Johanna Wyn
    Pages 1-12
  3. Dan Woodman
    Pages 31-46
  4. Jenny Chesters
    Pages 47-65
  5. Helen Cahill, Carmen Leccardi
    Pages 67-81
  6. Julia Cook, Katherine Romei
    Pages 83-97
  7. Hernán Cuervo, Jun Fu
    Pages 99-114
  8. Julia Cook, Dan Woodman
    Pages 115-129
  9. Jenny Chesters, Hernán Cuervo, Julia Cook, Johanna Wyn
    Pages 131-149
  10. Johanna Wyn
    Pages 151-160
  11. Back Matter
    Pages 161-162

About this book


This book investigates the life trajectories of Generation X and Y Australians through the 1990s and 2000s. The book defies popular characterizations of members of the ‘precarious generations’ as greedy, narcissistic and self-obsessed, revealing instead that many of the members of these generations struggle to reach the standard of living enjoyed by their parents, value learning highly and are increasingly concerned about the environment and the legacy current generations are leaving for their children and remain optimistic in the face of considerable challenges.


Drawing on data from the Life Patterns longitudinal study of Australian youth (an internationally recognized study), the book tells the story of members of these ‘precarious generations’. It examines significant dimensions of young people’s lives across time, comparing how domains such as health and well-being, education, work and relationships intersect to produce the complex outcomes that characterize the lives of members of each of these generations. It also explores the strategies these generations use to make their lives and the ways in which they remain resilient. While the book is based on Australian data, the analysis draws on and contributes to the international literature on young people and social change.


Young Adulthood Sociology of Youth Youth Transition New Adulthood Education Work Nexua Belonging and Entrepreneurial Selfhood Rethinking Family Relationships Youth Wellbeing Social Change Life Course Social Relations Generational Change Social Inequality Generarion X in Australia Generation Y in Australia

Editors and affiliations

  • Johanna Wyn
    • 1
  • Helen Cahill
    • 2
  • Dan Woodman
    • 3
  • Hernán Cuervo
    • 4
  • Carmen Leccardi
    • 5
  • Jenny Chesters
    • 6
  1. 1.Youth Research CentreUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Youth Research CentreUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.School of Social and Political SciencesUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Youth Research CentreUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  5. 5.Department of SociologyUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  6. 6.Youth Research CentreUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

About the editors

Professor Johanna Wyn is a Redmond Barry Distinguished Emeritus Professor in the Youth Research Centre and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and the Academy of Social Sciences, UK. She is engaged in multidisciplinary and multi-method research on the ways in which young people navigate their lives in a changing world, with a focus on the areas of transition, gender, well-being and inequality. Her work recognizes that young people are active citizens, cultural creators and active agents in learning and well-being. She leads the ARC-funded Life Patterns longitudinal research program and has a strong research track record of competitive research grants and consultancies and tenders from a range of stakeholders, including government departments, foundations and the private sector.

Professor Helen Cahill has a distinguished career and reputation both internationally and nationally in youth studies, education and teacher development. She leads inter-disciplinary and multi-method research with a particular focus on the use of participatory methods to investigate youth wellbeing, sexuality, mental health, gender and youth leadership. She has authored many wellbeing education programs for use in Australian schools and community settings in the Asia-Pacific region. She leads a suite of research projects variously investigating resilience, social and emotional learning, and the prevention of gender-based violence. She has a strong research track record of competitive research grants and consultancies from a range of education, health and development stakeholders, including government departments, the private sector, and international NGO’s such as UNICEF, UNESCO, and UNFPA. Her work is characterized by the use of innovative and embodied participatory methods which position young people as co-creators of knowledge developed about how to serve their needs.

Dan Woodman is TR Ashworth Associate Professor of Sociology in the School of Social and Political Sciences in the Faculty of Arts. He is currently President of the Australian Sociological Association (TASA) and Vice President for Australia, New Zealand and Oceania of the Research Committee on the Sociology of Youth (RC34) within the International Sociological Association (ISA). He is also co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Youth Studies. Dan’s primary research area is the sociology of youth, young adulthood, and generations and he uses this focus to also contribute to the sociology of work, and to sociological theory. His writing conceptualizing generational change and the new social conditions impacting on young adults is internationally recognized. His current research activity is focused on the Life-Patterns Project. 

Dr. Hernan Cuervo is an Associate Professor in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and the Deputy Director of the Youth Research Centre, at the University of Melbourne. His research interests focus on youth studies, transitions and the nexus between education and work; the concept of belonging; rurality; and theory of justice in education. Hernan coordinates the Graduate Certificate of Education and lectures in the Master of Teaching and the Master of Education; and at an undergraduate level within the UoM Breadth courses. He is the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Applied Youth Studies. His most recent books are “Understanding Social Justice in Rural Education” (Palgrave, 2016) and “Youth, Inequality and Social Change in the Global South” (Springer, 2019).

Professor Carmen Leccardi is Professor of Sociology of Culture at the Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Milano-Bicocca. She is the director of the doctoral program in Applied Sociology and Methodology of Social Research. She was Vice Chancellor of Equal Opportunities in the period between 2012 and 2013 and is currently scientific coordinator of the Inter-University Research Center ‘Gender Cultures’. From 2013 to 2015 she was President of the European Association of Sociology (ESA). Her research focusses on processes of cultural change. In this context, she carried out national and international research on cultural models, with a particular focus on young people; gender and generational differences; experiences of time and their changes. As for her research methods, Leccardi gives priority to qualitative approaches, and hermeneutical methods in particular.

Jenny Chesters is a Senior Lecturer at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and a Senior Research Fellow on the Life Patterns project at the Youth Research Centre. Her research interests focus on transitions between education and employment throughout the life course and social stratification. She coordinates and teaches the subject ‘Professional Capstone Project’ in the Master of Education and teaches into ‘Education Research Methodology’ in the Graduate Certificate of Education and the Master of Teaching. She also delivers guest lectures in various research methodology subjects. Her role in the Life Patterns project is to oversee the collection, management and analysis of the longitudinal quantitative data.

Bibliographic information


“It is an important contribution to contemporary youth studies, of significance for scholars and students alike, as well as providing those in youth policy and practice to re-think their approaches to strengthening life chances and the life course for young people.” (Howard Williamson, Journal of Applied Youth Studies, Vol. 3, 2020)