The term “quarterlife crisis” is associated with difficulties transitioning to adulthood that are accompanied by feelings of panic, loss, and uncertainty. However, we argue that this experience could vary largely depending on the sociocultural context and requires delving into nuances to understand and appreciate the lived experiences of the young population transitioning in different contexts. The aim of this study is to explore young people’s experiences of quarterlife crises triggered from interactions with the social environment, taking into consideration both British and Indian contexts. Our participants are 22-30 years of age from the UK (n=16) and India (n=8) who self-define as having experienced difficulties “finding one’s place in the world.” Data were generated through photo-elicitation and timeline interviewing and analysed with Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. We focus here on one of the themes derived from this project: “perceived standards and unfulfilled expectations,” which involves the sub-themes of playing catch up, feeling responsible, and living up to social expectations. We consider our findings in light of Robinson and Smith’s (2010) theory of early adult crisis. Our study adds detail and subtlety with respect to ways in which young people experience threats to their self-worth as a central feature of quarterlife crisis within individualist and collectivist cultures.


life span, identity crisis, cross-cultural differences, young adulthood, visual methods, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Raginie Duara shares an interest in understanding the youth culture and the various issues faced by this group of people and how such issues and coping mechanisms sit within the broader historical and cultural context whilst dealing with challenges of establishing an identity and a “place in this world.” With her expertise in qualitative research methods, she worked as a research fellow at the University of Leeds in an international research study funded by ESRC and GCRF on youth substance addiction in Assam (India) and developed impactful visual materials such as posters and short films along with participants who have successfully resisted or recovered from alcohol and/or drug addiction. Some of her works can be found at https://projectresilience.co.uk/

Dr. Siobhan Hugh-Jones is an Associate Professor in Mental Health Psychology, School of Psychology, University of Leeds. She is the Principal Investigator of the project SAMA, Safeguarding Adolescent Emotional Wellbeing in India.

Professor Anna Madill is Chair of Qualitative Inquiry in the School of Psychology, University of Leeds, UK. She is a fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Academy of Social Sciences. She co-founded and chaired (2008-11) the BPS Qualitative Methods in Psychology Section. Many of her research project can be found at https://projectresilience.co.uk/

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