“You Gotta Be Able to Pay Your Own Way”

Canadian News Media Discourse and Young Adults’ Subjectivities of “Successful” Adulting


  • Barbara Ann Mitchell
  • Rebecca Lennox University of Toronto




youth transitions, news media, discourse analysis, emerging adulthood, identity


Youth transitions to adulthood and traditional markers of “complete” adulthood are becoming more fluid, uncertain, and extended in modern western societies. Despite these shifts, public discourses surrounding young adult home-leaving trajectories have remained largely informed by a linear benchmark perspective. This framework positions establishing financial autonomy with the goal of permanently leaving the parental home as central to “successful” adulthood. In this paper, we integrate textual and interview data to critically interrogate contemporary public discourses of adulting in tandem with Canadian young adults’ subjective understandings of “successful” adulthood. Specifically, we conduct discourse analysis using two complimentary data sources: (1) a selection of Canadian news articles addressing youth transitions to adulthood (n = 44), and (2) interviews assessing Canadian young adults’ perceptions and experiences of adulthood (n = 20). Our findings reveal how media constructions of “successful adulthood” are synonymous with financial independence and responsibility. These social norms reflect and shape young adults’ subjective meanings of “successful” adulthood and inform the ways of being that young people imagine as “ideal”.

Author Biographies

Barbara Ann Mitchell

Professor, Dept. Sociology/Anthropology (cross appointed with Dept. of Gerontology)

Rebecca Lennox, University of Toronto

PhD Student, Dept. of Sociology