Article

Life Course

Deborah Carr

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0030
Life Course

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Sociology
  • Comparative and Historical Sociology
  • Economic Sociology
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Health, Illness, and Medicine
  • Population and Demography
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Social Movements and Social Change
  • Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility
  • Social Theory

GO

Show Summary Details

Preview

Sociology of the life course is a sophisticated theoretical paradigm designed to understand human lives. Four key assumptions guide life course scholars’ theoretical and empirical work: (1) lives are embedded in and shaped by historical context; (2) individuals construct their own lives through their choices and actions, yet within the constraints of historical and social circumstance; (3) lives are intertwined through social relationships; and (4) the meaning and impact of a life transition is contingent on when it occurs. Life course scholars also rely on rigorous research methods and data sources—including national censuses, sample surveys, in-depth interviews, and historical records—to document human lives. Because a key question of life course research is “how does historical time and place shape lives?” researchers often compare data obtained at different points in time, from different birth cohorts (i.e., individuals born at different points in history), and from different national and cultural contexts. Researchers also rely heavily on longitudinal data, or data obtained from the same person at multiple points in time, so they can track individual-level continuity and change. Life course research is interdisciplinary, incorporating concepts from sociology, history, psychology, demography, gerontology, child development, and—in recent years—behavioral genetics. The specific foci of life course studies range from social psychological outcomes such as stress, self-esteem, occupational values, and cognitive complexity to family roles, marital and fertility patterns, educational and occupational attainment, retirement, and deviance. Although many life course scholars typically specialize in one developmental stage, such as childhood, adolescence, midlife, or older adulthood, most also consider ways that one life course stage influences subsequent experiences. Most life course research has focused on the U.S. context, yet in recent years the collection of longitudinal data—especially in the United Kingdom and western Europe—has fostered a flourishing of life course research in Europe.

Article.  10833 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.