chapter  5
YOUTH
Pages 6

Tension between young and middle-aged adults is no new development of the late twentieth century. It was well set in by the Edwardian era, and indeed long before it. By their mid teens young adults were able to earn and were sexually mature, but they had not yet taken on the burden of maintaining a household of their own. Physically and economically they were ready for independence. Their moral education was formally complete, for few continued to attend Sunday School once they started work: ‘I wouldn’t lower me dignity. I was finished with that.’ Yet it was in the interests of their parents, who had so far supported them, now to share something of their growing capacity to earn, and so to retain control of them within the family. They wanted also to ensure that when their children married they could take pride, and sometimes assurance for their own comfort in old age, in the spouse chosen. For both reasons, they did not want their children to rush into sexual experience and hasty marriage. Although the term ‘adolescence’ was little used before Stanley Hall popularized it in his pioneering 1904 book, it was a commonplace that the transition of youth to full social independence could be a rough passage.1