Sociology | Sociology of the Life Course
S660 | 10312 | Pavalko


A life course perspective focuses on the intersections of individual
lives, social change, and social structure.  It emphasizes the
patterns or trajectories across individualís lives and the way those
patterns are shaped by the broader social structure and historical
time.  This approach, particularly its emphasis on life dynamics and
historical contexts, is often proposed as an alternative to more
static conceptualizations that have traditionally dominated many
domains of sociology.  However, a life course approach also presents
many conceptual and methodological challenges.  In this course we
will discuss these challenges and critically examine both the
promise and problems of a life course perspective.

We will begin with an overview of life course sociology and then
turn to concepts of age, period and cohort, stability and change.
We will then turn to theoretical and methodological issues that
arise when untangling different elements of time and process.
Finally we will explore ways of conceptualizing and studying
connections between social change and individual lives.

We will examine how life course questions and approaches have been
applied to a wide range of substantive questions, such as political
attitudes, criminal careers and health.  Course participants should
think about how this perspective can inform their substantive area.
Because the life course perspective focuses on dynamics across
lives, life course analyses raise interesting methodological
issues.  While this is not a methods course, we will discuss the
logic of various methods and types of data that may be used to
answer these complex questions.

All class participants will apply a life course approach to a
substantive topic.  Students can do a course paper that includes
some type of life course analysis or, for those developing a new
topic, a proposal for such a paper.