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The Life Course and Life Span Perspectives: History and Overview Toni C. Antonucci Institute for Social Research University of Michigan Presentation to.

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Presentation on theme: "The Life Course and Life Span Perspectives: History and Overview Toni C. Antonucci Institute for Social Research University of Michigan Presentation to."— Presentation transcript:

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 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 CHILDHOODAGING GrowthDecline Increasing Disorganization organization organization StructuralDedifferentiation differentiation differentiation

5 Why? In addition to the changing societal demographics and the reshaping age distribution … In addition to the changing societal demographics and the reshaping age distribution … The demise of the “Grand Theory” The demise of the “Grand Theory” A new awareness of the multiple levels of influence 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 YOU Family/community Individual Environment/Culture/Society Gene/Biology

8 Life Span/Life Course Sequence Normal Development: Stage 1  Stage 2  Stage 3 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 Differences Life Span Life Course Individual Groups Processes Social pathways Processes Social pathways Trajectories Roles, transitions Trajectories Roles, transitions Endogenous (micro) Exogenous (macro) 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 GEN 1 GEN 2 GEN 4 GEN 3 GEN Age Span Generations

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15 Major Themes Life Course ResearchLife Span Research Age StratificationIndividual Differences Cohort and HistoricalAdaptivity & Plasticity Period Effects Accumulation ofAllocation of Resources (in)equalities Linked LivesSelf-regulation Differential Trajectories and Pathways of Aging 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. Elder’s 4 types: 1. Social pathways 2. Trajectories 3. Exit transitions 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 – Father’s employment effects family income/resources Linked Indirectly - Multigenerational effects of the Feminist Movement or the Great Depression

22 Individual Differences Functional ability – intelligence Social relationshipsattachment Disposition – personality Individual Differences are multidirectionalmultidimensional

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

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

25 Biological Bioenvironmental Interactions Environmental Ontogenetic Age-Graded Evolutionary History-Graded Non-Normative Personological Maturational, Etc. Dialetectical Learning Socialization Conceptions of Basic Major Antecedent Development Determinants Systems of Change 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 Osborn’s

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 as social capital bidirectional transfers 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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