Adulthood has traditionally be

Adulthood has traditionally been associated with productive
work roles, parenthood and citizenship rights. Consequently adulthood tends to
be linked to notions of responsibility, independence and autonomy. In
contemporary Britain, as in many parts of the minority world, adults hold a
dominant position in the social world, including ‘positions of importance in
families and households, in the labour force, in political institutions, and so
on’ (Pilcher 1995: 87). However, we must remember that not all adults are
equally powerful, and an individual’s experience of adulthood is shaped by
class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and age. As Pilcher reminds us:
Able-bodied, white, middle-class males in full-time employment are probably the
most fully adult members of British society Their advantageous structural
position enables them to exercise their citizenship rights, their independence
and autonomy, to a greater extent than can women, elderly or disabled people,
children, the working class, or members of ethnic minority groups . . .
Clearly, some grown-ups are more grown-up than others.

                The latter part of adulthood is often
referred to as ‘middle age’, the period before old age, and has become
recognized as a distinct phase of adults’ lives. It is identified when signs of
ageing begin to appear such as grey hair and the ‘middle-aged spread’, and for
women it tends to coincide with the menopause. It is often linked to a change
in parenthood such as when children leave home. In popular discourse this
period can be referred to as the ‘mid-life crisis’: a time when people reflect
on their family and work status while struggling to postpone the ageing process
for as long as possible (Featherstone and Hepworth 1989). Thus, although
adulthood is constructed as the dominant powerful stage of the life course, it
is important to bear in mind that, like other life course stages, it is not a
constant status and it can be experienced in a variety of ways.

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