Biographical structuring through a critical life event: parental loss during childhood

Gerhard Jost

in Biography and turning points in Europe and America

Published by Policy Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9781847428608
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9781447307655 | DOI:
Biographical structuring through a critical life event: parental loss during childhood

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Jost analyses how children cope with the loss of a parent during childhood and its lifelong consequences, as seen in the structuring of life stories. Jost argues that if we examine life events as experienced during childhood, then we can contribute to a better understanding of "turning points" since children have a different range of action and have a sense of time more protracted than adults. His analysis of three case studies is drawn from interviews that were conducted in Germany with 35- to 48-year-olds who had lost their father or mother between the ages of 0 and 14. He finds that a critical life event like parental loss offers extensive, but not exclusive, potential for structuring the concerned person's life story; in some life stories, it is an essential turning point, while in other life stories, other events play an equally important role. As life proceeds, new events can evoke the earlier turning points in both positive and painful ways.

Keywords: Biography; turning points; life stories; children; parental loss in childhood; life events; Germany

Chapter.  7380 words. 

Subjects: Social Research and Statistics

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