Life course theory is a multidisciplinary social study which offers an array of ideas and observations mainly in history, sociology, psychology and economic subjects. The discipline mainly focuses on the powerful connection between people on the ground of their historic and socioeconomic characteristics. The course therefore seeks to aggregate the individual experiences, rather than providing the sequential events. Life course approach is also referred to as the life course theory or the life course perspective. Life course was developed in the year nineteen sixty with the aim of analyzing the lives of people within the context of social, structural and cultural aspects. Life course is credited in examining the life history of individuals and establish how events that happened earlier shaped the future of the individuals. Important events such as marriage, divorce, disease, crime and the like influence the course of life in an individual.
Part I. Life Course Concepts and Development Theory
Settersten described the emerging propositions, life course framework and controversies surrounding the life course theory. He continued to assert that place and time are critical in scientific inquiry on human lives. Human lives are dynamic and changes associated with times define the destiny of the individuals. Researchers have been seeking to comprehend the rhythm and nature of the life course perspective in the modern society. It has been identified that the modern society has complex systems in place that make it difficult to explain and analyze the life course perspective (Greenfield, 2011). Information gathered by life course perspective is crucial in that it assists scientists in reforming and developing social policies, interventions and services with the aim of enhancing better human welfare and development.
Science has enabled better and efficient systems that analyze the life course perspective. Scientific aspects have narrowed the study to academic disciplines in specific study of life periods. Settersten states that the controversy arises in moving away from the fragmented science to complex developmental science. Developmental science has many positive aspects pegged to it, but the challenge is that it has never been put into practice. It is just theoretical which is subject to challenges that may derail the life course perspective. It is vital to consider disciplinary orientations and debates to enable the researchers to overcome methodological barriers as well as theoretical barriers (Greenfield, 2011). Most of the challenges in life course perspective entail the time barrier and the place barrier which influence the results of life course perspective analysis.
The concept of life therefore tries to offer differentiated social phenomena which are mainly distinct from the normal life-cycle stages of individuals. The course thus gives the individual duration of life and closely monitors their characteristics such as age, though at a varied time and place.
The book written by Settersten exploits challenges facing life course perspective. It goes ahead in criticizing and explicating the central controversies and propositions in the study of human lives. Challenges posed by age and the structuring of age, cohort and generation challenges, social contexts and other challenges posed by understanding lives in the long way. The book of Settersten is credited by creating an agenda that identifies with future of science in human development. The book places critical aspects of place and time in comprehending the human lives (Greenfield, 2011). Settersten has laid out a platform for the people interested in research and crafting theory in the line of life course perspective.
While developing the life course theories in the earlier years, social scientists were concerned with behavior of humans in two perspectives. The social relations approach examined social structures effects such as effects of the family and marriage on the life of the individual. This was further categorized to subcategories that reflected on functionalism, ecological systems theory and exchange theories. There were temporal approaches in understating the human lives. The main challenges relating to the earlier systems are that they did not capture the complexities in the human interrelationships (Greenfield, 2011). There are doubts on the best channel to handle social structures and the influence on time, place and history of the individuals. These different theories converged to develop the current life course theory.
A developmental theory by Carl Jung in the year nineteen thirty considered three stages in life. These were the youth stage, middle age stage and the old age stage. The observations were made from clinical perspectives. Jung considered the youth stage as a period of expanding the consciousness. The youths are always in constant learning of new ideologies. Middle age was considered to reflect a period of questioning the convictions that are held for years. This is unique in that individuals contemplate on the past. This is a stage in which a person recalls the past events which have shaped the present status. The last stage considered by Jung indicated the old age stage that transpires increased introspection. The individuals begin to be preoccupied with self-evaluation aspects.
Theorists have developed models over the years. These models have been considered to identify with the stages of development. Most of the theorists do not consider physical and individual maturation. Theories are developed with special focus on developmental stages. Carl Jung considered Jungian analytical psychology. Carl Jung asserted that the way to individualism is attributed by the persona, ego, shadow, anima and the feeling of self. These factors are believed to influence the characters of the individuals which in turn shape the life course perspective. Introversion and extraversion are aspects that influence the human behavior. Introversion according to Curl Jung indicated that it identifies with the tendency of being holy and concerned with one’s own mental life. The individual tends to be self-centered in social situations and displays low-key, deliberate and quiet aspects. Such individuals enjoy solitary time and do not value groups. Extraversion resonates with the feeling of gratification from the outside self. Such individuals enjoy human interactions and often involved in social gatherings. Extraverts enjoy time spent with people. Introverts and extraverts influence the characters of individuals subsequently influencing the life course perspectives.
Part II. Narrative
This paper has provided the results of an interview performed to Mr. Isaac who is currently aged ninety seven years old. He was born in nineteen fifteen in Tulsa City, America. He is an African American. The interviews lasted for two hours each for three weeks. Each week had its own interview. Tulsa city is situated in the northeastern part of the Oklahoma on the banks of Arkansan River. The city was once known as the oil capital of the world and it is still heavily involved in the gas and oil industries. Tulsa city is inhabited by a substantial number of the African American people.
Isaac was born on twenty third of July, nineteen fifteen. He was the third of four children born in a family. His father James was a successful businessman in Tulsa city operating a business in the Wall Street of the city. The main challenge Isaac remembers is the notions of racism. Whites and blacks did not appreciate each others. The whites felt that they were superior than the blacks. Blacks were arrested often and charged with crimes they did not commit. Isaac continues to state that his grandparents were slaves in America. They had originated from Zanzibar. Isaac does not know anything about Zanzibar but he can clearly locate the place on a map. Isaac was educated in the schools in the neighborhoods which were designated for the blacks. He had a vision of joining Tulsa high school but events that took place shattered his life.
At the age of six years, in nineteen twenty one, there was a confrontation between the whites and the blacks. Words went round that a black youth had assaulted a white lady in a building. This led to the war between the blacks and the whites which destroyed Tulsa city. Tulsa city was mostly inhabited by the blacks who were referred to as the Negroes. The whites referred to it as a black uprising. The business and house belonging to the father of Isaac were destroyed, James died in the confusions and the family setup was disrupted. Everyone had to run for his life considering that the situation was intense. That is the last time that Isaac saw or heard about his family members. He was six years old by then. This meant that he stopped schooling and had to hustle to make ends meet. Isaac believed in God and he was a staunch member of the Presbyterian Church in Tulsa.
Isaac became a shoe shiner many years after the Tulsa city bombing. He could hardly make enough money to make a decent living. Isaac met a lady called Agnes and they had two children together. Agnes was a beautician in the neighborhoods who earned her living through plaiting hairs of her fellow women. This was not a bad business and they managed to support their family. There were events that shaped his life as he recalls. The World War I shaped his life. He was born in the period of fighting. World War I was in the years from nineteen fourteen to nineteen eighteen. His parents were struggling to support the family due to effects of the World War I.
The World War II in the years from nineteen thirty nine to nineteen forty five shaped his future. By then he was in middle adult hold. Times were difficult and he remembers on young men being recruited to join the American Army. He was not ready to join the war and had to hibernate to avoid joining the army. Many of his friends were killed and others became disabled. Isaac was born in the confusions of the World War I and he could not afford engaging in another war. The effects of the Tulsa city that went unreported made Isaac hate war. He had lost a mother, a father, brothers and a sister. Isaac spent most of his life as a shoe shiner and did some brokerages that enabled him to support his family. He has managed to educate his two children and they are happily married in America. He continues to assert that he is glad that slavery ended. From the history he has read on slavery, it was difficult time for the African Americans.
Isaac remembers the days of his family and sheds tears. He asserts that although the days are gone and time has healed most of his wounds in the heart, the memory rings as if it happened yesterday. The site of photos showing the happy times makes us postpone the interview for another day due to the emotional attachment. Isaac could not narrate further and he had to come into terms with the situation. There is a photo of his father in a cowboy hat. The father resembled Isaac in many ways. Isaac continued to assert that the demise of his family led to the miserable life he has spent in America. This is because he did not manage attending formal school translating that he had to rely on manual jobs for the rest of his life.
Great recession that lasted a decade in America was a difficult time, as he narrates. He asserts that he went without food for some days in that particular season. Money was scarce and people spent every cent they had wisely. Most of the businesses in America were closed and the future of American people was dull. He remembers times when he had to brush only two pairs of shoes in a day. The money got from the small enterprise could not support his family. This is the time he was involved in crime. He joined a gang of blacks that raided people’s home at night and robbed them in the streets of Tulsa city at the wee hours of the night. Most of the gang members have since died in the confrontation with the police.
Zanzibar slave trade was carried out by Arabs in the eighteenth century. The grandparents of Isaac were employed in the plantations as slaves. They were entitled to poor lives and hard labour. Racism was the order of the day between the whites and the blacks. He vividly remembers on the slavery and has read books on the topic. Isaac is jobless today and depends on his two children for the daily life. The wife Agnes has since died due a cancer attack in nineteen ninety five.
Part III. Theoretical Interpretations
Carl Jung considered three development states, namely the youth stage, middle age stage and the old age stage (Cox, 2010). Considering the youth stage, Isaac had an encounter with the state of joblessness. This is in the light that he had not had any formal education. He worked as a shoe shiner in Tulsa city. The great depression period occurred to him when he was at the youth stage. The period was characterized with hard economic times. Foods were scarce and people were desperate. The concept of continuity is clearly defined in the life of Isaac. One event led to another that shaped his life. It is evident in the life of Isaac that the youth stage entailed physical development, emotional development, social development and intellectual development (Cox, 2010).
Physical development in the youth stage indicated that Isaac experienced physical changes like the increase in height. As Isaac asserts, he was a tall black boy with enormous muscles accustomed by the developing bone mass. Isaac remembers wrestling with his fellow black men in the streets of Tulsa city, his hometown. Emotional changes experienced by Isaac initiated the search for identity and independence (Cox, 2010). This is the time Isaac joined the peer groups; the peer groups of young black men with similar characters. A good example, Isaac indicated joining a gang that robbed off people in the Tulsa city. This indicates the search for identity. Youth stage is also associated with search for emotional autonomy. Isaac at the youth stage had neither parents nor siblings; they had all died during the Tulsa city war in nineteen twenty one. Isaac made independent decisions that influenced his life. This stage is related with youths having difficulty with tolerating, having a lot of pride and having many unsettled emotions. Intellectual development enabled Isaac to gain abstract thinking, explore the future and set goals for the life ahead (Cox, 2010). Social development of Isaac enabled him to recognize other people as a part of his society; this stage enabled him to get a wife called Agnes. Isaac searched for recognition from the type of job he did and the people who were associated with him.
Middle age stage in Isaac’s life history was shaped by the World War II. He did not wish to go fighting due to the history he had with the Tulsa city bombing. The city was reduced to shells when the blacks and the whites crashed. The whites were citing a black uprising. This was terrible time which made Isaac lose all his family members. Middle age is associated with period of age between the young adulthood and age before the old age. This is the age between the third quarters in the life span of all human beings. It is mostly the age between forty and sixty years. The visible signs of aging indicate skin elasticity and grey hair. Diseases cripple the individuals especially if the person is not on a well balanced diet.
During his old age Isaac has spent his time like a beggar. He depends for the daily bread from his two children. Having lost his wife to cancer, his life got disoriented to a point that he could not make ends meet by himself. Most of the days he is idle and waits for the day the Lord shall come back and take him home. Those are the words from his mouth. Old aged people face health complications. Isaac is suffering from high blood pressure. This is an indication that he is almost at the brim of human life cycle. Old age starts from the age of sixty and above. Isaac experienced a major blow when his wife died in the year nineteen ninety five. This affected his social life significantly and he wished that he could also pass away.
Culture influences human development (Core, 2005). Cultural backgrounds portray strengths and weaknesses at the same time. It depends on the issue at hand. Culture is the tastes and art favored by a particular social group. Values govern the way human behaves alternatively influencing the human development in all stages (Core, 2005), in the development of the life history perspective. It is vital to put into consideration theories of cultural development. Culture is directly proportional to the behavior of persons from their childhood, youth, young adulthood and at the old age. Cultural practices are imbedded in time and place. Cultural differences are evident in the world. People have different perceptions of things. It is vital for all the people to value the contributions of each and every one of us. People must coexist as s society (Core, 2005).
In conclusion, life course perspective enables the description sequences that influence life, the opportunities and advantages that an individual or a process undergoes through. This is critical in understanding the human development and the relationship to the individual health. It is vital in articulating the interrelationships on the stages of life with biological, social, psychological and behavioral processes. This is crucial in the development of a life course perspective to a particular line of study. Through the life course, individuals are able to clearly understand human development stages. It also gives an intersection to both social and historical factors of an individual throughout their lives. Individuals are also able to understand the social, political and economic conditions which influence the life of a given individual. The study also helps people to use the earlier events to influence their future decisions such as marriage and divorces. The course therefore allows individuals to form better and firm decisions throughout their lives.