Identity

Age and identity

Summary sheets

 

Age is seen to be sociology constructed as in other societies many people do not know their birthday as their births are not registered, this reduced the importance of age to them. Generally there are 3 major stages

  1. Children – Dependant on older groups

  2. Adults – Rite of passage or puberty in which they are regarded in adult ways

  3. Elders – Often acquire a greater status and power as they are regarding as having a wider experience of life and wisdom.

Stages of life:

  • Childhood

 This can be seen as socially constructed. In some cultures ‘childhood’ is not seen as a period of innocence, dependence or vulnerability, as in the UK. For example, children will be working, and marriage may be considered at the age 12 or 13, especially for girls.

Today, it is argued that we have a contradictory relationship with children in the UK. Children are either portrayed in the media as little angels and as vulnerable victims or little devils (delinquent or shocking). There is a generally held view that children ‘grow up’ more quickly today than previously. Postman (1982) argues that childhood emerged only when the spread of literacy enabled adults to better shield children from various aspects of adult life – particularly certain aspects of sexuality and certain horrors associated with death and disease – so the ‘innocent’ child was created. He suggests that the emergence and spread of the media and visual culture in the twentieth century has brought about a decline in childhood and threatens, ultimately, to bring about its disappearance.

  • Youth

This tends to be associated with those from 12–25. Youth is socially constructed as a period of transition from childhood to adulthood and a time of rebellion/resistance in our culture. However, some cultures have no concept of ‘youth’ as a stage in the life-course. Margaret Mead (1928) also argued that the ‘storm and stress’ associated with youth is culturally specific and not found in all cultures, though her findings and methodology have been questioned.

  • Young adulthood and middle age

 Young adulthood is normally characterised by career and family. Most people form relationships, have children and establish their careers during this time, often moving into their own home and becoming independent from parents.

Middle age tends to be associated with those in their forties and fifties. Bradley (1996) argues it has a higher status than youth or old age – middle-aged people are running the country and hold power at work. However, middle age is also seen as a negative time, as ‘youth’ is lost and old age comes closer. It is sometimes associated with negative ideas, such as a ‘mid-life crisis’, and ‘empty nest syndrome’.

  • Old age:

In the UK people have tended to retire at the age of 60 beginning of old age.  In the UK however the elderly are not seen to acquire much status or respect as work is seen to be the main source of identity, loss of work

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