Seeing (Transitions to) Adulthood in Youth (Sub)cultural Studies Through the Eyes of Former Straightedge Adherents

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This article uses forty-four face-to-face interviews with individuals who formerly identified with straightedge - a clean-living, mostly youth-based (sub)culture - to explore the possible role chosen youth cultural identities play in adult transition, as well as extend recent work on aging and youth scenes by more deeply engaging both "subjective adulthood" and the retrospective accounts of "ex" members. Data show interviewees developing (paths to) subjective adulthoods substantially influenced by former affiliation with straightedge culture they frequently believe mark their (paths to) adulthoods fundamentally distinct from others in their age cohort. Particularly, individuals transitioning from straightedge recounted pronounced subculturally rooted antipathy toward adult conventionality, often envisioned alternative adult trajectories for themselves, discussed transitional impediments and opportunities they took to be unique to transitioning from straightedge, and, in indicating heightened awareness of adulthood's "facework," visualized a collective of others like them inside adult social spheres by virtue of the formative bases (former) scene affiliation provided them. Ultimately, findings suggest that the study of subjective adult transition may profit from directly considering the formative influence of elective youth identities. Likewise, perhaps the most fertile grounds in the turn toward examining aging and scenes might rest in meanings individuals attach to adulthood and transitioning, even for ex-members of certain communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-370
Number of pages19
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. All rights reserved.


  • adult transition
  • straightedge
  • youth subculture


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