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The Life Course and Life Span Perspectives: History and Overview

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Title: The Life Course and Life Span Perspectives: History and Overview


1
The Life Course and Life Span Perspectives
History and Overview
  • Toni C. Antonucci
  • Institute for Social Research
  • University of Michigan
  • Presentation to
  • The MacArthur Foundation Aging Society Network
  • New York, New York
  • September 16-17, 2008

2
Introduction
  • Why take a life course and life span perspective
    on aging?
  • A brief history

3
Previously Most Social Scientists Specialized
  • Infancy Race, Class, Ethnicity
  • Childhood Organizations
  • Adolescence Gender
  • Aging Work, Employment
  • Family Generations

4
Most Developmental Scientists Specialized,
Dichotomizing by Age
  • CHILDHOOD AGING
  • Growth Decline
  • Increasing Disorganization
  • organization
  • Structural Dedifferentiation
  • differentiation

5
Why?
  • In addition to the changing societal demographics
    and the reshaping age distribution
  • The demise of the Grand Theory
  • A new awareness of the multiple levels of
    influence

6
Integrating Theories
  • (Bio)ecological Theory
  • Social and Symbolic Interactionism
  • Theory
  • Both theories emphasized the dynamic interplay
    between person and environment
  • Eventually both theories became life long,
    recognizing the importance of a dynamic life
    course and ongoing life span development

7
LINKING MACRO TO MICRO MULTIPLE LEVELS OF
INFLUENCE
Environment/Culture/Society
Family/community
Individual
YOU
Gene/Biology
8
Life Span/Life Course Sequence
  • Normal Development
  • Stage 1 ? Stage 2 ? Stage 3
  • Under Stress
  • Stage 1 ? Stage 2 ? Stress ? Return to Stage 1 ?
    with recovery Return to Stage 2
  • Similarly Under Later Stress
  • Stage 1 ? Stage 2 ? Stage 3 ? Stress ? Return to
    Stage 2 ?with Recovery Return to Stage 3

9
Life Span/Life Course Sequence
  • Environment ? Outcome
  • We came to understand that environment could not
    explain all
  • Gene ? Outcome
  • We them thought that the identification of the
    human genome would explain all
  • It is now pretty clear that most things are best
    explained by
  • Gene x Environment ? Outcome

10
DifferencesLife Span Life Course
  • Individual Groups
  • Processes Social pathways
  • Trajectories Roles, transitions
  • Endogenous (micro) Exogenous (macro)

11
Similarities in the Life Span and Life Course
Perspectives
  • Understand Human Experience to be Long-term/life
    long Multilevel Contextual
  • Dynamic
  • Influenced by macro micro factors
  • Gains and losses Risks and resiliencies

12
Aging Differs by Cohort
  • With the demise of the Grand Theory
  • comes recognition that people may
  • experience age differently
  • or
  • It might have been the reverse without
    undeniable cohort differences, Grand Theories
    seemed less likely

13
Generations
14
(No Transcript)
15
Major Themes
  • Life Course Research Life Span Research
  • Age Stratification Individual Differences
  • Cohort and Historical Adaptivity Plasticity
  • Period Effects
  • Accumulation of Allocation of Resources
  • (in)equalities
  • Linked Lives Self-regulation
  • Differential Trajectories and Pathways of
    Aging

16
Age Stratification
  • Normative age structuring
  • Age stratification
  • Social Institutions stratify, segment, construct
    lives
  • Many institutions stratify by age, e.g.
  • education, work, retirement

17
Age Stratification
  • Chronologization - saliency of age and time
  • Institutionalization - construction of life
    course by organizations
  • Standardization - normativity of life course
    patterns

18
Cohort and Historical Period Effect
  • People are embedded and shaped by
  • time, place and experience
  • These trigger change
  • The timeline/cohort figure is illustrative

19
Cohort and Historical Period Effect
  • Timing in lives, e.g. Elders 4 types
  • 1. Social pathways
  • 2. Trajectories
  • 3. Exit transitions
  • 4. Transitions

20
Accumulation of Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Status disparities
  • wealth, knowledge, health, etc.
  • Life course capital
  • Consistent predictor of opportunities,
    accomplishments, exposure to risk
  • Cumulative and transgenerational

21
Linked Lives
  • Linked Directly
  • Fathers employment effects family
    income/resources
  • Linked Indirectly -
  • Multigenerational effects of the Feminist
    Movement or the Great Depression

22
Individual Differences
  • Functional ability intelligence
  • Social relationships attachment
  • Disposition personality
  • Individual Differences are
  • multidirectional
  • multidimensional

23
Adaptivity and Plasticity
  • Adaptation to change
  • both positive and negative
  • growth and losses
  • Plasticity
  • within person variability
  • testing the limits

24
Self - Regulation
  • Interaction of biological and cultural/environment
    al resources
  • Strategies of selection, optimization and
    compensation
  • Human Agency/motivation

25
Conceptions of Basic
Major Antecedent
Development
Determinants Systems of Change

Personological Maturational, Etc.
Ontogenetic Age-Graded
Biological Bioenvironmental
Evolutionary History-Graded
Interactions Environmental
Dialetectical
Non-Normative
Learning Socialization
Time
Figure Adapted from Baltes, Cornelius
Nesselroade, 1978 Baltes 1997
26
Differential Pathways and Trajectories of Aging
  • Subgroup differences in social pathways of aging
    e.g. by education, SES, gender, race, family,
    roles, interest in distribution of disparities
    in trajectories, interindividual differences
  • Individual differences in trajectories of
    intraindividual change e.g. changes in behaviors
    and functioning, intelligence, personality,
    stability and change

27
Differential Pathways and Trajectories of Aging
  • With age greater Heterogeneity
  • with more experience, more differences
  • With age greater Homogeneity
  • with age selective attrition

28
Contemporary Evidence
  • Age-stratification of society
  • changing nature of work and family roles,
    education, gender roles
  • e.g. work and the Fordist model versus
    patchwork model
  • e.g. family roles Father knows best, Betty
    Crocker, the Brady Bunch
  • the Osborns

29
Contemporary Evidence
  • Attitudes about Aging
  • increasingly positive
  • divergence of young and old
  • divergence general vs. specific
  • Effect of Demographics and the Baby Boomers

30
Contemporary Evidence
  • Cumulative Inequalities
  • evidence re SES effects
  • health
  • ethnic groups cohorts/generation
  • Civil Rights
  • Hispanic Paradox
  • African / Caribbean American

31
Health over the Life Course
  • Chronic versus acute stressors ?health
  • Stress model
  • moderating effects e.g. social relations which
    may attenuate influence of stress on health
  • mediating effects e.g. social support explaining
    the association between stress and health

32
Social roles of men and women
  • Cumulative effects of linked lives
  • Roles (work, family) changing but aging is still
    gendered
  • Current cohorts are different from future cohorts
  • Implications e.g. men have material, women have
    emotional resources
  • Flexibility suggests adaptability

33
Changing family and intergenerational connections
  • Changing families
  • structure of families
  • type of support available
  • quality of relationships
  • But despite changes families seem to maintain
    same purpose and function

34
Changing family and intergenerational connections
  • Intergenerational relations
  • as social capital
  • bidirectional transfers
  • Positive and Negative influences, exchanges,
    resources

35
Changing family and intergenerational connections
  • People adapt as needed, socioemotional
    selectivity e.g. change investment strategy
  • People are shaped by the personal and situational
    characteristics convoys which provide support
    and in turn influence their heath and well-being

36
Life long adaptation and plasticity
  • Cognitive functioning
  • early abilities ? later declines
  • interventions can be successful
  • behavioral interventions can have
  • neurological effects

37
Life long adaptation and plasticity
  • Personality, motivation, emotion and social
    engagement
  • Some aspects of personality do change and are
    affected by life events
  • Motivation may be increasingly affected by
    social relations
  • Emotional optimization in later life
  • Social engagement is modifiable

38
Cohort differences in trajectories of aging
  • Trends in cognitive functioning
  • Trends in physical disability
  • Trends in retirement

39
Gaps in current knowledge about changes
  • Emerging phases of old age
  • Globalization and international migration
  • Impact of social movements
  • Efforts to reduce disparities
  • Impact of initiatives about successful aging

40
Gaps in current knowledge about changes
  • Additional issues
  • structural lag
  • limited resources
  • institutionalization of responsibility
  • e.g. of health
  • ethics re new technological advances
  • attitudes re rights and responsibilities

41
Intervention Opportunities
  • Global governments, communities to intervene
  • widespread education of population
  • anti-aging/stereotype campaigns
  • limited resources
  • Societal social programs, mutual
    responsibility, enhanced intergenerational roles,
    increase trained professionals

42
Intervention Opportunities
  • Community level interventions
  • community based centers both social and medical
  • facilitate activity for older adults
    e.g. transportation, lighting, sidewalks
  • roles for elders in the community

43
Intervention Opportunities
  • Community level interventions
  • community based centers both social and medical
  • facilitate activity for older adults
    e.g. transportation, lighting, sidewalks
  • roles for elders in the community

44
Intervention Opportunities
  • Individual level interventions
  • cognitive training
  • exercise and nutrition
  • interventions re decision-making
  • maintain social engagement
  • active family and community roles

45
In summary to address the needs of an Aging
Society, we must
  • Take a human development approach that combines
    the strengths of both the life course and the
    life span perspectives
  • Build on disciplinary strengths, from cellular
    biology to demographics, but leave behind our
    disciplinary biases
  • Think of aging from birth to death so that
  • life time experiences inform both research and
    policy
  • Consider aging a proactive, interactive,
    individual, intergenerational and societal
    experience
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