Social Inequality Topic 4C

theoretical explanations of age inequality

HideShow resource information

Functionalist explanations

  • young people have lower levels of income as they are beggining their carear and are yet to rise through the ranks functionalists argue their role is fairly alocated based on their limited skills and experience and work hard to gain skills and experience through the meritocracy.
  • Similaraly funcitonalit theory suggests older people actively disengage from social roles leaving them to be picked up by younger people- this process of disengagement is functional because it allows industrial societies to operate using the nuclear family where clear roles are defined. 

parsons

  • Relates age differences to the overall functioning of the social system beleiving that differences in the social roles associated with age groups are vital for the smooth functioning of society.
  • i.e adolecence children begin to develop indipendence from their parents and this is essential in industrial societies such as the USA as the workforce must be mobile so it can move to where workers are needed by manufactoring industry.
1 of 9

Parson's continued

  • nuclear family functional and well adapted for this as is self sufficient and doesn't rely on extended kinship networks therefor vital children develop indipendence from their parents and shift primary loyalty from their parents to their marriage partner. Youth culture therefore invovles a degree of rebellion against parental dicipline which can cause conflict between generations.
  • Adolecence puts too much emphasis on establishing indipendence and on personal attractivness through transition isn't smooth it helps create indipendent individuals within nuclear families who are well adapted to the needs of industrial socieites. 
  • Argues elderly have less status in american society than most others as once children are grown and elderly retired they loose their most important social roles and may be relitively isolated from their children who tend to focus on marriage partners more than parents. 
2 of 9

Parson's continued

  • nuclear family functional and well adapted for this as is self sufficient and doesn't rely on extended kinship networks therefor vital children develop indipendence from their parents and shift primary loyalty from their parents to their marriage partner. Youth culture therefore invovles a degree of rebellion against parental dicipline which can cause conflict between generations.
  • Adolecence puts too much emphasis on establishing indipendence and on personal attractivness through transition isn't smooth it helps create indipendent individuals within nuclear families who are well adapted to the needs of industrial socieites. 
  • Argues elderly have less status in american society than most others as once children are grown and elderly retired they loose their most important social roles and may be relitively isolated from their children who tend to focus on marriage partners more than parents. 
3 of 9

Functionalist explanations evaluation

  • Been widely criticised for his theories determinism 
  • overemphasises on conformity and concensus and neglects inequalities
  • Post mod- age boundries are breaking down
  • Fems- assumes women both do and should be socialised into femenine roles
  • ignores conflict and exploitation involved in relationships between age groups 
  • all his findings are from middle class males in their own communities in the usa and so lack generalisability. 
4 of 9

Marxist explanations

Reserve army of labour- rulling class use young and old people to fill the gaps in the job market during economic boom time treating them with short term contracts meaning their position is weaker and may well be paid less than full time permanent workers. In addition full levels of state benefits are withheld (full income support) until young people reach age 25 which is evidence that powerful law makers in society see youth as a less than equel group. Laws created by the state serve the interests of the bourogoisie and uphold dominant ideology. 

Eldely people are blamed for economic probems e.g older pop are seen as a problem due to their need for economic support and pensions.

 

5 of 9

Marxist evaluation

reserve army of labour theory is used for many marginalised groups and isn't clear why certain groups are disadvantaged- although it explains the marginalisation of older and younger workers it doesn't expalin why these groups are targeted. 

6 of 9

Feminist explanations

Gannon-  illustrates how women suffer from more inequality in older age than men. Agues male scientists have labled the menopause as a disease and because its seen as a disease its frequently atrobuted to a whole range of "problems" from low sex drive to osteoporosis to the menopause despite a lack of evidence stating that i the cause.

i.e in reaserch into the sex drives of post menopausal women it varies considerably and in a significant number of cases it increases not decreases. Labelling the menapause a disease "advances patriarchal ideology by rendering all women over 50 sick and in need of self reinforcing their inferior status through life".

it also disguises the real cause of problems of women as they age whuch are the economic and political oppresssion of women - both of which intensiy through age.

7 of 9

Interpretist explanations

Hockey and James- argue that both childhood and old age are social constructs linked by the common thesmes of dependency yet both children and the elderly could be much more indipendent than society allows them to be i.e in the past children did much more work than they do today and retirment policies deny many elderly who are perfectly capable of working the opportunity to do so. However they don't beleive that those who are marginalised, excluded and dependent allways accept their status lying down. Rather they can resist it in 3 forms. 

1. allternative sources of power used to resist. - for example wealthy elderly people might have high power because of their wealth, elderly men can still use some patriarchal powever over female carers and so on.

2. to deny membership into a subordinated group and pretend to belong to a higher status one-i.e teenagers retending to be 18, hockey's reaserch showed eldely may cling to roles that make them feel younger i.e one resident sissy too the role of "visiter" who would attempt to chear up and support more frail residents. 

8 of 9

Interpretist explanations 2

3. using your membership of a disadvantaged group as a source of power it provides opportunity to mock the way you're treated. I.e hockey recounts how residents would act in deliberatly childish ways like sticking their toung out as symbolic resistence, be deliberatly obstructive such as asking to go to the toilet at inconveniant times and turn a deaf ear to care workers requests or talk about death which was a taboo allowing the residents to have a measure of indipendence until the end. 

Evaluation

Underplays fixed ellements of age identities assuming that too much is open to negotiation in reality elderly are unlikely to negotiate themselves out of declining physical health and increasing levels of dependence. 

9 of 9

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Social stratification and inequality resources »