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Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries
of women (Booth, 2002). While moderate Islamists have called for the re-Islamization of society, more radical elements have repeatedly engaged in various acts of terror in order to win dominance in multiethnic contexts or to destabilize or overthrow governments. However, the practice of Islam among a majority of the growing population of observant young people is more likely to take the form of increased personal piety manifested in dress, prayer, and avoiding “loose” Westernized behaviors.1 For example, young people in Kenya have used Islam as an alternative to antisocial behaviors, drawn to its rejection of alcohol and drugs (Beckerleg, 1995).
Local cultures vary in the extent to which they respond to and are reshaped by these various transnational influences, and young people themselves are often important actors in this process of adaptation and response. Cross-generational changes in gender role attitudes across societies provide a good example of the relative weight of these competing international influences in shaping local attitudes. Inglehart and Norris (2003) compared the generational differences in gender role attitudes between the postindustrial societies of the West, the industrializing developing countries, and the more agrarian least developed countries. They found that while gender role attitudes among young people in the postindustrial societies of the West and the industrializing developing countries are becoming more liberal and egalitarian in comparison to the older generation, the same trends are not apparent in the least developed countries, in particular those in which the population is predominantly Muslim. As a result, gender role ideologies are diverging relative to the past, when they were more similar across societies, as some societies undergo change in response to the spread of liberal Western values and others resist change in response to the resurgence of traditional religious values.
A good example of the resilience of some aspects of local culture, even in the face of many modernizing and Western influences, comes from a recent study of emerging adulthood in urban China. Based on responses obtained from a survey of approximately 200 students from Beijing Normal University, the authors argue that young people in urban China are experiencing emerging adulthood in a different way from other cultural settings because of their unique cultural beliefs and values (Nelson, Badger, and Wu, 2004). In the United States, regardless of ethnicity, young people place prominence on criteria for adulthood that reflect independence, such as “accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions,” “decide on personal beliefs and values,” “financially independent from parents,” and
Personal communication with Barbara Ibrahim, regional director for Western Asia and North Africa, Population Council, November 2004.