The life course cube
Advances in Life Course Research - cover, vol. 38, 2018

« The life course cube: A tool for studying lives », now published in “Advances in Life Course Research”

This paper* by Laura Bernardi (NCCR LIVES, University of Lausanne, CH), Johannes Huinink (University of Bremen, D) and Richard A. Settersten Jr (Oregon State University, USA) proposes a conceptualization of the life course as a set of behavioral processes characterized by interdependencies that cross time, life domains, and levels of analysis.

This new article provides a consistent and parsimonious foundation to develop life course theories and methods and integrate life course scholarship across disciplines. The authors discuss the need for a systematized approach to life course theory that integrates parallel and partially redundant concepts already existing in a variety of disciplines.

The “cube” - a synthetic representation of the life course

They then introduce the life course cube: ‘The cube is a synthetic representation of the life course: the axes represent the three dimensions of time, domains, and levels at which developmental, behavioral, and societal processes occur., As such the cube is a toolbox for specifying research questions and seeing them in their contexts, for suggesting causal relationships and outcomes across disciplines.

As the authors write: “Our hope is to provide a theoretical foundation to guide the development of interdisciplinary life course research and help integrate and unify the field. Doing so moves life course scholarship beyond the often-cited four general “paradigmatic principles” first offered by Glen Elder (e.g., 1994), which have been indispensable for christening a field, but do not offer an integrated view of life course processes. Our model incorporates Elder’s principles, but more systematically tends to relevant processes. »

In the appendix, Laura Bernardi, Johannes Huinink and Richard A. Settersten Jr offer a formal account of the complex processes unfolded in the life course cube. Such account is written in a language that is general enough to draw disciplinary approaches into a common theoretical construct.


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