Dissertation Abstracts

Emerging Adulthoods: Youth Engagement in an Intergenerational Perspective

Author: Pitti, Ilaria , ilaria.pitti@gmail.com
Department: Sociology and Business Law
University: Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna, Italy
Supervisor: Paolo Zurla
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: Italian

Keywords: Youth participation , Intergenerational , Adulthood , Grounded Theory
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management , Childhood


The thesis investigates youths' political and civic participation in the context of transition to adulthood; in particular, the thesis focuses on the influence of intergenerational relationships on youth engagement. The empirical study consists of a qualitative research conducted in Bologna in 2012. Based on a grounded theory methodological approach, the study involved semi-structured interviews with a sample of young people and a sample of ‘significant adults’. The analysis shows a relevant disaffection towards politics among the youth which, however, does not lead to political and civic disengagement, but to a "conditional participation" expressed through proactive attitudes towards formal politics - based on a reform, resistance or rebellion logic- and through a deep investment in non-conventional activities. A negative interpretation of their present condition and a consequent intergenerational conflict are placed on the background of this type of involvement. Politics, in its most strictly formal expressions, is seen as an ‘adult area’ managed according to a logic that leaves little room to young people, who consequently choose to participate through alternative ways of activation where adult presence and power are perceived as weaker. Therefore, youths' departure from formal politics reflects a parallel distancing dynamic from adults, who appear unable to adequately perform their functions of model and recognition. Their ambivalence toward young people - that is, the constant fluctuation between pessimism and optimism, between oppressive guidance and lack of responsibility - results in a partial recognition of the real potential and needs of young people as citizens and emerging adults.