Past Research

Based on a three-month ethnography of an urban knitting group, my Master’s thesis focuses on social ties among educated young women. Relying on ethnographic field notes, I assess the role of this type of group within urban life, the ways in which the women use this space, and the degree to which these women forge meaningful relationships within it. In response to the debate between the “community lost” and “community liberated” schools, I construct a theory of fluid social ties, which posits that particular urban settings can foster ties that are neither strong nor weak, but rather fluid, running the gamut between these two extremes. Drawing from their demographics, and their life stories, I argue that geographic and occupational mobility have created conditions for social dislocation. Many women seek out this group as a means of establishing and maintaining friendship, which, though partial, serve to fill some void in their social lives.Through their constant shifting between openness and superficiality in conversation, I show the ways in which they control the line between close and remote connections, and the means through which they use the activity knitting to navigate this social dance.

Future Research

The intersection of race, ethnicity, class, and gender in the transition to adulthood
In future research, I am interested in examining the intersection of race, ethnicity, class and gender in the transition to adulthood. I am also interested in exploring the connection between subjective meanings of adulthood with shifting demographic trends. I would like to pursue a course of research that builds on and expands my doctoral work through the collection of original ethnographic and interview data, as well as through the exploration of existing interview data sets that focus on the transition to adulthood.I am interested in performing comparative research on the transition to adulthood across ethnic/immigrant groups and socioeconomic groups. In particular, I would like compare the delayed transition to adulthood of middle-to-upper-class young adults with the accelerated transition experienced by many underprivileged youth. I would also like to examine in the ways in which differences in culture and resources might affect the transition to adulthood across class. I would like to expand my battery of qualitative interviews to include young adults from lower-income families, particularly single mothers.

I also intend to examine the ways in which class crosscuts the experience of immigrant groups in the transition to adulthood. One third of my interview participants are foreign-born, first-generation, or second-generation Americans. Because my research focused on the upper echelon of the class scale, these participants represent the international elite residing in New York City. I plan to perform interviews with immigrant young adults on either ends of the class spectrum. Preliminary analysis of the interviews I collected reveals a significant difference in childrearing style between American and immigrant parents. Immigrant parents often employ a “natural growth” child-rearing approach (Lareau 2003), and encourage their children to conform to traditional pathways and measures of success. American parents are more likely to practice “concerted cultivation” (Lareau 2003), and emphasize greater freedom of choice. I would like to explore how childrearing styles differ or converge between different ethnic groups and across class, and the implications on pathways to adulthood.

Finally, I would also like to further investigate the gender implications in the transition to adulthood across class and race/ethnicity. In my research on middle-to-upper class young adults, I find that young women maintain close emotional bonds with their parents, their mothers in particular, into young adulthood. As a result, many young women remain more susceptible to their parents’ influence, are unable to make decisions on their own, and ultimately fail to become independent and separate entities. I am would like to use the Network interview battery to investigate whether this difference between genders in the transition to adulthood applies across class and ethnicity. And in if so, in what ways might this dynamic vary by socio-economic status and culture?

Mental health and off-time transitions in the transition to adulthood
I would like to explore the connection between the de-standardization of the transition to adulthood and mental health and well-being of young adults. Demographic research has been instrumental in demonstrating that there is no longer one dominant normative pathway to adulthood, but rather a multitude of pathways (Settersten, Furstenberg and Rumbaut 2005). Given the fuzzy nature of the normative structures in the transition to adulthood today, I would like to use mixed methods to explore if and how young adults are feel off-time in their development through the life course, as well as the possible implications for well-being and mental health. Using secondary data sets in tandem with qualitative interview data, I would like to pursue the following questions: What are the connections between off-time transitions and mental health and well-being among young adults today? How are off-time transitions defined by and experienced differently between classes? How might resources available to privileged young adults, in the form of financial and emotional parental support, help to mitigate the risks of off-time transitions? I would like to use the new module of the European Social Survey that includes classic questions related to timing, sequencing, and duration of life transitions.  to address questions of on- and off-time transitions given the current de-standardized model of adulthood.