age pattern | (2023)

Hopkins (CEO of a major US broadcaster): "...You're at an important stage in your career. How old are you?"

Rath (Hopkins' assistant): "Thirty-three." Hopkins: “It's an important age. In the next six or seven years you should start for real." (Wilson, p. 224)

Hopkins, a fictional character from Sloan Wilson's 1955 novel,The man in the gray flannel suit, believes that age is a measure of a person's career progression. In addition to career progression, people may perceive appropriate age ranges or age ranges for various behaviors and life events. Social scientists who study aging regard such perceptions as indicative of aging norms, a concept central to understanding how age organizes social life. This review of age norms has several objectives: first, to define age norms and distinguish between their formal and informal types; second, to provide examples of age norms in the fields of education, work and family, with the aim of illustrating their historical and contemporary variation; Third, discuss the impact of age standards on behaviour, including what it means to be or not be working and whether sanctions will be imposed on those who violate age-related standards; and, finally, to highlight some controversies and persistent limitations in the investigation of age norms.

What are the age standards?

Age norms are a variety of social norms, which are rules of behavior and have three distinctive characteristics: they are shared, binding (that is, they contain ahe mustohe mustelement) and supported by positive or negative sanctions (for classic treatments of social norms, see Blake and Davis). Age norms are broadly defined as social rules for age-appropriate behavior, including everyday actions and/or the timing and sequence of major life events (eg, marriage, parenthood, retirement; in sociological language, life events are typically role transitions). Then they form asocial watchor temporary script that potentially influences attitudes and behavior (for example, Hopkins' thought in the dialogue above).

Formal and informal age norms

Age norms are woven into the fabric of many social institutions in formal and informal ways. Formal age standards are codified in various laws and regulations (Blake and Davis). They organize society by age in at least two interrelated ways: by dividing the population into general age strata, each made up of individuals considered to have similar abilities (for example, and second, by using the age of entry of individuals to regulate various rights and obligations ranging from public spheres (p.Age of consentlaws, get a driver's license; see especially Cain, p. 3. 4. 5352, for historical examples of these efforts).

Sociologist Bernice Neugarten and her colleagues pioneered the study of informal age norms, which are unwritten and implicit, but there is scholarly disagreement about their precise definition and measurement. “age-appropriate behavior expectations” (Neugarten, Moore, & Lowe, p. 711), the “ages at which certain transitions must occur” (Settersten & Hagestad, 1996a, p. 179), or “ages considered standard or typical of a particular role or status by the modal group of members of a social system” (Lawrence, 1996, p. 211) are three common meanings. Age norms have been measured in various surveys using questionsIdeal,preferably,appropriate, or alsotypicalAge groups associated with a variety of role transitions and/or everyday behaviors.

Variation of age norms.

Despite the differences in definition and measurement, selected age norms are presented to document their historical and subcultural variation, since age norms are properties of social systems and the latter are not constant over time and social space. Examples are the formal rules of education, work, family and domains.

Historical work thus suggestsUSAit became increasingly age-conscious and regulated from the late 18th century and well into the 19th century, both in the public sphere and in the public and private sphere. Consider, for example, the transition from the mixed-age classrooms of early childhood education to the highly age-segregated nature of American schools, which gained momentum in the early 19th century when elementary, middle, and high schools became institutionalized. secondaries (Chudacoff). At work, the participation of people in the labor force at one end of the life cycle has been constrained bychild laborOn the other hand, the laws (approved for the most part in the second half of the 19th century) and the regulations on the retirement age and the right to a pension (guidelines approved in the mid-1930s).

Age standards for family-related transitions have also changed over time. An 1889 guide for women placed the ideal age range for marriage between eighteen and twenty-six, based on the fact that the author of the guide had consulted some renowned physicians as to what they considered the proper time for marriage (Chudacoff, p.50). Attitude data from the 1940s through the 1980s and into the 1980s show that perceptions of the ideal age for marriage fell in the wake ofSecond World War(early to mid 20s) compared to the previous model, but has increased recently. In the late 1980s, the majority of respondents considered it appropriate to be 20 years old (Settersten & Hagestad, 1996a).

Importantly, not only do age norms change over time, but other research also documents co-occurring subcultural variations. For example, the studies on the length of marriage mentioned above showed that women's marital expectations were consistently two to three years younger than men's during this period. In addition to gender, age norms also vary by age group, education, occupation, and race/ethnicity (Settersten & Hagestad, 1996a).

age norms and behavior

Despite the ample evidence of formal and informal age norms, we know less about their impact on people's actual behavior. An earlier statement suggested that age norms act as a system of "bumps and breaks..., in some cases speeding up an event, in others slowing it down" (Neugarten et al., p. 711). Although intuitively plausible, several critical points deserve attention. Life-course researchers often study large-scale patterns in age-related attitudes and transitions through general population surveys. However, shared attitudes do not equate to shared behavior (Newcomb, p. 268). Nor can we assume that age norms are responsible, even if we observe regularities in the timing and sequence of transitions (Marini).

To better capture the impact of age norms on behavior, we need to consider smaller groups such as families, peer groups, or even an organization. In fact, studies of these particular settings that organize our daily experience show the effects of age norms, as the following examples demonstrate: The nature of age-graded schools affected children's seating patterns in the lunchroom ( Thorne, p 42); Family “kinship scripts” in some low-income minority communities “expect[ed] certain adolescent females to become 'premature' since grandmothers often raised these children (Stack and Burton, p. 159); and employees at organizations like Hopkins used shared perceptions of typical age-related career progressions at the beginning of this entry to measure their own progress and the progress of others (including supervisors whose evaluations of employees were influenced by such judgments of age) (Lawrence, 1988).

consequences of absence

People whose behaviors/transitions are consistent with expectations are labeled as suchsinglewhile those who hurt her are labeledIdlenesseither early or late. Violation of age limits can result in penalties, but the evidence is mixed and indeed reflects earlier discussions of normative influences on behaviour. While attitudinal evidence from surveys of the general public showed that many respondents perceived little consequence of taking time off in transitions related to work and family (eg, Settersten & Hagestad, 1996a; 1996b), others Smaller group studies suggested that violations of this age norm can be punished with such common sanctions as a derogatory note for someone who does not follow a familiar script (Stack and Burton) or a poor performance review for someone whose professional development is underdeveloped. late (Lawrence). The latest finding suggests that age norms can actually foster ageism when age-appropriate expectations lead to stereotyping.

Absenteeism can also have other consequences, one of which is individual stress. The most difficult are those unforeseen transitions (for example, being widowed at a young age), as there may be a vague roadmap for guidance and minimal support from others. However, even planned transitions in leisure time can lead to low levels of social support if an individual adopts a status that others in their social circle do not (for example, having children long before or after their friends do). Also, because transitions are never made in isolation from other roles, time off can lead to role overload (eg, early parenthood can affect school completion).

ongoing controversy

Despite its continuing importance in aging, there are still a number of controversies surrounding the study of age norms (see Dannefer, 1996 for helpful brief summaries of some of these issues). First, conceptualization and measurement difficulties persist. For example, if sanctions are a critical dimension of norms, then they should be measured (Marini; see Lawrence for an alternative view). However, few researchers have captured this essential component. Second, the role of age norms in explaining behavior needs to be examined more closely. Although role reversals have received more attention, age norms in their mandatory sense (and backed by sanctions) are perhaps more visible in people's everyday interactions and behaviors (for example, these data may also encourage more discussion about how severely society is currently experiencing age norms (and aging in general) Most scholars agree that American society has become increasingly age-appropriate and age-conscious over the last mid-19th and 20th century, but some would argue that this is not the case as late 20th century America became moreage does not matter, that is, transitions and behavior are less defined by age than they used to be (for example, Neugarten and Neugarten). If this is the case, we would expect greater diversity in aging outcomes, but it is precisely this diversity that has historically been neglected by the aging normative tradition because of its conceptual emphasis on consensus and the resulting methodological search for modal patterns. (Dannefer). Historical and subcultural differences are critical in reminding us that age-specific expectations do not reflect the natural or universal results of aging (eg, adolescents are rebellious), but are both the cause and effect of specific social arrangements. Undoubtedly, further exploration of these dynamics of aging norms will continue to bear fruit in our study of aging.

Jeff Lashbrook

see alsoAge; ageism; life course.


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