The Changing Social Construction of Age and the Life Course: Precarious Identity and Enactment of “Early” and “Encore” Stages of Adulthood

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

This chapter examines trends in the social construction of age, noting increasing differentiation historically in early life, which now extends across the life span. Such differentiation is accentuated by the pace of social change, disruptive to existing, seemingly “natural” norms and expectations about age and life course stages. The unraveling of age-graded expectations invariably generates ambiguities in age-linked identities and behavior. Growing recognition of “early adulthood” and “encore adulthood” results from the mismatch between outdated expectations and new economic and demographic realities, as well as shifts in the goals, values and preferences of individuals. Changing structural contexts and individual orientations produce striking cross-cohort variations in the experiences of individuals of the same age in different time periods, and in the linked lives of those attached to them. Finally, we point to increasing diversity within age categories and cohorts that is accompanied by cumulative inequalities across all phases of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Pages111-129
Number of pages19
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
ISSN (Print)1389-6903
ISSN (Electronic)2542-839X

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer International Publishing Switzerland.

Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Cumulative inequality
  • Early adulthood
  • Encore adulthood
  • Frail elderly
  • Gender
  • Linked lives
  • Retirement
  • Social construction of life stages
  • Youth

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