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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 The MacArthur Foundation Aging Society Network New York, New York September 16-17, 2008. Introduction.

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the life course and life span perspectives history and overview

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

introduction
Introduction

Why take a life course and life span perspective on aging?

A brief history

previously most social scientists specialized
Previously Most Social Scientists Specialized

Infancy Race, Class, Ethnicity

Childhood Organizations

Adolescence Gender

Aging Work, Employment

Family Generations

most developmental scientists specialized dichotomizing by age
Most Developmental Scientists Specialized, Dichotomizing by Age

CHILDHOOD AGING

Growth Decline

Increasing Disorganization

organization

Structural Dedifferentiation

differentiation

slide5
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
integrating theories
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

linking macro to micro multiple levels of influence
LINKING MACRO TO MICRO MULTIPLE LEVELS OF INFLUENCE

Environment/Culture/Society

Family/community

Individual

YOU

Gene/Biology

life span life course sequence
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

life span life course sequence1
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

differences life span life course
DifferencesLife Span Life Course

Individual Groups

Processes Social pathways

Trajectories Roles, transitions

Endogenous (micro) Exogenous (macro)

similarities in the life span and life course perspectives
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

aging differs by cohort
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

generations

1880

1900

1910

1920

1940

1950

1970

1980

1990

2010

GEN 1

GEN 1

Age Span

GEN 1

GEN 1

GEN 3

GEN 3

GEN 3

GEN 2

GEN 4

GEN 4

GEN 4

GEN 4

GEN 2

1980 1990 2000 2010

GEN 2

GEN 2

GEN 3

Generations
major themes
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

age stratification
Age Stratification

Normative age structuring

Age stratification

Social Institutions stratify, segment, construct lives

Many institutions stratify by age, e.g.

education, work, retirement

age stratification1
Age Stratification

Chronologization - saliency of age and time

Institutionalization - construction of life course by organizations

Standardization - normativity of life course patterns

cohort and historical period effect
Cohort and Historical Period Effect

People are embedded and shaped by

time, place and experience

These trigger change

The timeline/cohort figure is illustrative

cohort and historical period effect1
Cohort and Historical Period Effect

Timing in lives, e.g. Elder’s 4 types:

1. Social pathways

2. Trajectories

3. Exit transitions

4. Transitions

accumulation of advantages and disadvantages
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

linked lives
Linked Lives

Linked Directly –

Father’s employment effects family income/resources

Linked Indirectly -

Multigenerational effects of the Feminist Movement or the Great Depression

individual differences
Individual Differences

Functional ability – intelligence

Social relationships attachment

Disposition – personality

Individual Differences are

multidirectional

multidimensional

adaptivity and plasticity
Adaptivity and Plasticity

Adaptation to change –

both positive and negative

growth and losses

Plasticity –

within person variability

testing the limits

self regulation
Self - Regulation

Interaction of biological and cultural/environmental resources

Strategies of selection, optimization and compensation

Human Agency/motivation

slide25

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

differential pathways and trajectories of aging
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

differential pathways and trajectories of aging1
Differential Pathways and Trajectories of Aging

With age greater Heterogeneity –

with more experience, more differences

With age greater Homogeneity –

with age selective attrition

contemporary evidence
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

contemporary evidence1
Contemporary Evidence

Attitudes about Aging

increasingly positive

divergence of young and old

divergence general vs. specific

Effect of Demographics and the Baby Boomers

contemporary evidence2
Contemporary Evidence

Cumulative Inequalities

evidence re SES effects

health

ethnic groups – cohorts/generation

Civil Rights

Hispanic Paradox

African / Caribbean American

health over the life course
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

social roles of men and women
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

changing family and intergenerational connections
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

changing family and intergenerational connections1
Changing family and intergenerational connections

Intergenerational relations –

as social capital

bidirectional transfers

Positive and Negative influences, exchanges, resources

changing family and intergenerational connections2
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

life long adaptation and plasticity
Life long adaptation and plasticity

Cognitive functioning

early abilities  later declines

interventions can be successful

behavioral interventions can have

neurological effects

life long adaptation and plasticity1
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

cohort differences in trajectories of aging
Cohort differences in trajectories of aging

Trends in cognitive functioning

Trends in physical disability

Trends in retirement

gaps in current knowledge about changes
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

gaps in current knowledge about changes1
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

intervention opportunities
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

intervention opportunities1
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

intervention opportunities2
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

intervention opportunities3
Intervention Opportunities

Individual level interventions:

cognitive training

exercise and nutrition

interventions re decision-making

maintain social engagement

active family and community roles

in summary to address the needs of an aging society we must
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