The Shifting Sands of a Social Contract: Young People in the Transition Between School and Work
Over the eighties a new kind of youth research has been emerging in West Germany. ‘Youth’ as a social identity has come to be seen not only as an expression of the standardization of the life course, but also as encompassing its own internal ‘life course agenda’. This approach thus emphasizes the demands and opportunities of individual biography, as these arise from the social structuring and cultural contextualization of the transition between childhood and adulthood. It considers the coping strategies employed by young people during transition processes; and it is also concerned to register socially structured changes in the forms taken by those processes and the institutionalized contexts in which these take place. Such contexts transport, break and transform cultural patterns, but equally point to the social structural basis of the shifting options with which young people are confronted in moving towards adult status. It is the ‘typical’ young person’s experience of transition which is central to this approach, rather than the spectacular youth (sub)cultural forms and styles which dominate not only media images but also youth research itself.