Subject Headings for Coming of Age Events

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee

Question/Answer on cataloging issues — February 2015

Question: What subject headings are used for materials on coming of age and its associated events?

By Carolyn J. McCallum, Wake Forest University

The transition from childhood to adulthood in the lives of young people is referred to as coming of age. The culture to which an individual belongs establishes the age at which this transition occurs, and its recognition is often observed by special ceremonies and/or participation in rituals. It is frequently associated with puberty or religion, in which an individual commits to abiding the laws of their faith.

Listed below are Library of Congress subject headings (LCSH) for coming of age:

Coming of age – “Here are entered works on the transition of young people from childhood to adulthood” (LCSH Authorities). Examples in which the subject heading is subdivided topically and geographically include:

  • Coming of age—Social aspects—United States
  • Coming of age—England—London
  • Coming of age—United States—Case studies
  • Coming of age—Cross-cultural studies

Examples of specific authorized LCSH for coming of age events are listed below. Please note that this is not an exhaustive listing.

Sacred thread ceremony – Used for the Hindu initiation ritual Upanayana

Bar mitzvah

Bat mitzvah

Confirmation (Jewish rite)

Changing Woman Ceremony (Apache rite) – Used for the Apache rite Na’ii’ees


Quinceanera (Social custom)

Not all coming of age events or rituals associated with coming of age have individual authorized LCSH. If this is the case, one can perform a subject search in an online catalog for a specific ethnic group or religion and follow those terms with one of the Library of Congress’s topical subdivisions listed below:

—Rituals can be used as a topical subdivision under names of individual secret societies and under individual religions other than Judaism and its sects. (Ex. Hinduism—Rituals)

–Rites and ceremonies can be used as a topical subdivision under ethnic groups. (Ex. Apache Indians—Rites and ceremonies) Narrower topical subdivisions include: –Funeral customs and rites and –Marriage customs and rites.

–Social life and customs which is used under names of countries, cities, etc., and under classes of persons and ethnic groups. (Ex. Maasai (African people) –Social life and customs)


The coming-of-age theme is represented in media and various forms of literature and art.

Coming-of-age television programs and Coming-of-age films are two separate terms that may be used as subject headings for works about the individual topics themselves or as index terms that specify the genre of a work being described.

Subject headings representing the coming-of-age theme in literature and art include:

Library of Congress uses two separate subject headings to represent fiction which incorporates the coming-of-age theme as central to its plot. LCSH uses the term Bildungsromans, a literary term which applies to novels whose main character experiences moral and psychological growth from youth to adulthood. The subject heading Bildungsromans is used in place of the following terms: Apprenticeship novels; Coming of age—Fiction; Coming of age—Juvenile Fiction; Coming-of-age novels. The Library of Congress’s Annotated Children’s Catalog has approved the term, Coming of age—Fiction, for use when describing and cataloging children’s literature.

Coming of age—Comic books, strips, etc. (Subject heading also used in Library of Congress’s Annotated Children’s Catalog)

Coming of age—Drama