Conceptions of Adulthood Among Chinese Emerging Adults

Document Type



With the influence of globalization, Chinese young adults’ transition to adulthood today are cultivated by both traditional Chinese values (e.g., collectivism, Confucian philosophy), as well as Western values (e.g., individualism, independence). The present study aimed to characterize emerging adults’ perception of adulthood in China today in terms of (1) the criteria for adulthood Chinese emerging adults considered important; (2) the relationships between subjective importance of adulthood status and status as a student or non-student; (3) gender; and (4) hukou status (rural vs urban). Chinese emerging adults aged 17–30 (N = 7099; 69% college students; 54% female; 57% with rural hukou status) completed a cross-sectional survey between October and November 2021. We found that most Chinese emerging adults felt ambivalent about their adulthood status. The findings suggest that cultural and geographical differences exist between emerging Chinese and Western young adults in their perceptions of entering adulthood. Concerning the self-perceived adulthood status and the subjective importance of criteria, several differences were found among Chinese emerging adults based on gender (male vs female), hukou status (rural vs urban), and educational status (student vs non-student). With increasing age, being men or having rural hukou, Chinese emerging adults may be more likely to adhering to traditional markers of adulthood. Overall, this study not only sheds light on conceptions of adulthood among Chinese emerging adults, but also provides implication for understanding emerging adults’ lived experience and subjective perception of this life stage. © 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Publication Title

Journal of Adult Development

Publication Date







Chinese culture, conceptions of adulthood, emerging adulthood