Individualization and family: Portuguese regional diversity in the transition to adulthood - northwest Portugal as a case-study

Joana Santos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Transition to adulthood has changed a lot since new values, industrialization and urbanization started to transform Europe. Diversity of transition events and their timing were deeply reduced. Economic, demographic and social modernization made it possible for youngsters to study, work, support an independent home, marry and have their own children. Most of them followed this path passing through main events roughly at the same age, entering adulthood earlier than before, forming nuclear families, and having no more than two or three babies. Around 1970 youth started diverging from conventional ways of becoming adults. Individualization and gender equalization appear to be key features of these new trends. Nordic and northwest European countries were well ahead in this process. In the South, few youngsters left their family homes to live independently as singles (alone, together with friends) or to live with a partner without marrying. The common trends were the delay of family formation and the fall of fertility to even lower levels. It seems that different historical cultures still influence current behaviors, including the north and south European divide between strong family’s societies versus autonomous individual-based societies (cf. Reher, 1998). Subnational regional heterogeneity has been rediscovered too. These sociocultural and territorial factors are needed to explain decades of delay and originalities of Mediterranean contemporary pathways to adulthood, including latest-late emancipation and lowest-low fertility. Data presented in this paper show that Portugal follows this model, but with specificities of its own. We identify subnational variations of transition to adulthood pathways in Portuguese regions. Recent signs of convergence towards the northern model are particularly strong in Portuguese south, and also in more urban areas. Other regions, such as the northwest, move slower. We present original micro data centered on northwestern youth in order to unravel change and inertia mechanisms.

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Presented in Poster Session 2