Life courses

The interpretivist and postmodernist theory of life-courses

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Unike Marxists, The New Right, Functionalists and Feminists, Postmodernists and Interpretivists do not focus on one type of family (i.e. the nuclear one).

They believe that people are not the puppet of society and we are not shaped by it and that people influence family life by interacting with one another and making choices that construct the family.

Choice in the 21st century has increased and thre is now increased family diversity and that no type of family is an ideal.

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Tamara Hereven believes we are shape by out life course that has several stages:

  • birth
  • early childhood i.e. being a baby
  • infancy i.e. learning to walk/talk etc.
  • childhood i.e. the age you start compulsary education
  • adolescence e.e.secondary school, being a teenager
  • young adulthood i.e. 18-30
  • alulthood i.e. 30-50
  • middle age i.e. 51-retirement
  • old age i.e. retirement-death

these stages may involve distinctly different sets of family interactions and relationship e.g. getting pregnant as a teenager may result in a different set-up to if you got pregant in a marriage in adulthood and, as a teenagre, your family set up may vary as you get older e.g. living with parents as an extended unit then living alone as a one parent family and maybe marrying later as a reconstituted or nuclear family. Your family set-up changes over your life-course.

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Life course analysis

Life course analysis cocuses on the meaning people give to their life-events (such as pregnacy, marriage etc.)

Life-course analysis has seven major strenghts.

  • it focuses on what family members not sociologists think is important to the family and how they view family life
  • it focuses on family practices - routine everydau practices of being in a family.
  • It uncovers family beliefs and our rights and obligations within the family.
  • it shows that families are not concrete structures, they are simply what people actually do. this hows the everyday experience of family life
  • distinctions between structures are irrelevant as the lines are blurred and changesd around families and households.
  • life course allows us to see clearly the influence of wider social structure and norms.
  • it is helpful studying family diversity and how it effects the family.
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