Life Course Perspective

LEAH Seminar
Life Course Perspective/Approach
Jerald R. Herting
October 19, 2012
• Social demographer/sociologist
• Statistician-type
• Exposed to all sorts of health, psychology,
prevention, research… and have found
myself thinking apply life course frame
Life Course
• “the social pathways of human lives”
• “age-graded sequence of socially defined
roles and events that are enacted over
historical time and place”
• how events, context, and sequence
influence aging and development---current
• Bottomline: Context (broadly defined)
“macro” and “micro”
– Fundamentally a perspective that is macro
(aggregated unit) in orientation
– Fundamentally a perspective that is micro
(individual ego “ i “) in orientation
Life course as theoretical
• Creates common field of inquiry by providing a
framework for descriptive and exploratory work
• Leads to specifying particular research problems
• Leads to selection of certain variables over others
• Sets up research design and data analytical
Key Concepts
“Social Pathways”
• Trajectories of behaviors and roles that are
followed by individuals and groups
a) not without variation/heterogeneity
• Typically these are under constraints of
social institutions and subject to historical
• Sequences of roles/states
• Transitions between roles/states
• Concurrent or joint trajectories/sequences
“turning points”
• Choice points that fundamentally alter
• Limit/expand future choices or alter the
likelihood of transitions
• “time time time… see what’s become of me…
• Historical --- context
• Individual --- age/development/cummulative
• Age/period/cohort
– fundamental concern
Key Principles
• Principle of life span development
• Principle of agency
• Principle of time and place
• Principle of timing
• Principle of linked lives
What does one do with this
• “Mental Health and Social Adaptation Following the Transition from
High School
– Aseltine and Gore
• “Ethnography and the Meaning of Adolescence in High Risk
– Burton
• “Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to
Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults”
– Felitti, Anada, Nordenburg et al
• “Gender, Resources Across the Life Course, and Cognitive
Functioning in Egypt”
– Yount
• Glen Elder (key sociologist type)
• Jeffrey Arnett (“emerging adulthood”)
• Urie Bronfennbrenner (not explicitly)
Comparing Female Life Course
Life Course---Longer (e0 =88)
Life Course---shorter (e0 = 74)