Life Course Winter School 2013

Life Course Winter School 2013

The LIVES Winter School on Life Course is a one-week intensive program on life course research. These interdisciplinary workshops (drawing from sociology, social psychology, life-span psychology, social demography, social policy) will occur in small groups.  Each of these collaborative research workshops will be led by three experts, with groups of 6 to 8 students in a beautiful setting: the Swiss Alps.

Three sessions will be organized for this first edition:

  1. Richard Settersten, Dario Spini and Véronique Eicher:

    Perceptions of the life course in Europe: Age, gender and generation norms

    This workshop offers a theoretical and empirical investigation of perceptions of the life course in Europe, with special attention to norms based on age, gender, and generation. It will draw upon a module of the European Social Survey (2006), which includes data from over twenty European countries. Items include age norms (such as the ideal age for a man or woman to become a parent), gender norms (such as the approval or disapproval of a mother or father who has a full-time job when children are under the age of three), and generation norms (such as whether being a grandmother or grandfather is an important marker of being “old”). While specific points of focus will be determined with participants, we nonetheless anticipate a strong focus on gender (probing both the perspectives of men and women and about men and women) and on regional (within-country) differences alongside cross-national differences. Both of these directions offer important advances and challenges for theories and methods. To explain these differences, we also anticipate drawing on individual and regional variables related to gender and economic inequality (e.g., based on attitudes, behaviors, policies). To analyze regional units, we will use the R package Spacom. The ultimate goal of this workshop is to collaborate on one or two papers, and the time together at the winter school will permit the group to finalize topics, develop a foundation and begin the research.

  2. Ingrid Connidis and Eric Widmer:

    Shifting family ties and ambivalence in later life: A life course perspective

    This workshop will explore shifting family ties and the ambivalences that they create with a focus on later life. The pluralization of life courses that has characterized the experience of currently young adult cohorts has also affected those who are now retired or close to retirement. Linked lives means that individuals are affected by their own situations as well as those of other family members. Thus, pluralization in one cohort has direct and indirect effects: direct for the cohort in question and indirect for other cohorts in family networks. For middle-aged and older adults current trends combine with a history of family and life transitions that create additional complexity and variation with some having experienced a standard family life cycle and traditional work-family arrangements while others having experienced childlessness, divorce, family recomposition, and balancing paid work with family responsibilities. This diversity of life trajectories creates additional challenges and contradictions in social and family life that are likely to have consequences for the ways in which individuals work out their personal networks, family relationships and partnerships. Ambivalence, as oscillations between positive and negative feelings towards family members, especially in intergenerational relationships, is likely to significantly increase for individuals who have experienced a non-standard life courses, directly or indirectly, especially when social and economic resources are lacking. Such ambivalence at the individual and relational level occurs in the context of structured social relations – gender, age, class, race/ethnicity – that are likely to be influential in promoting specific individual and relational strategies of coping. The workshop aims to advance the empirical study of family ambivalence in old age using novel datasets made available by the LIVES program. Advanced multivariate quantitative methods will be used. The workshop readings, discussion and data analysis will provide a context for designing two to three papers that will be formulated during the workshop. There is also the possibility of writing a paper that uses another data set or comparative analysis based on available data.

  3. Walter Heinz, Benedikt Rogge and Félix Bühlmann:

    Life Course Transitions: Education, Work and Unemployment

    In contemporary societies life course trajectories are becoming increasingly contingent with respect to the interplay of individual agency and the shifting opportunity structures. This has been creating challenges for individuals to navigate their transitions within and between various life spheres and heightened the risks of becoming excluded if they fail to do so. Transition research focuses on the timing, duration, sequences, and outcomes of status- and role changes across the life course. We will examine the choice of social pathways, the individual coordination of demands and activities in the life spheres of education/training, work, and unemployment from both an institutional and biographical perspective. Particularly, we will concentrate on how individuals experience and respond to biographical crises, e.g. job loss, analysing the intricate interaction of agency and structure in such periods of increased vulnerability. When addressing these research issues, we will discuss qualitative and mixed methods, strategies of international comparison - which are difficult but rewarding if they relate to the institutional arrangements of labour market and social policy. We intend to look at data that refer to Switzerland and Germany. Besides, we present methodological strategies of triangulating individual identity processes in order to deliver fine-grained analyses of the dynamics during life course transitions.

Organized by a consortium of four research centers

When and Where ?

Steering Commitee

  • Laura Bernardi, University of Lausanne
  • Walter Heinz, University of Bremen
  • Julie McMullin, Western University
  • Michel Oris, University of Geneva
  • Richard Settersten, Oregon State University
  • Dario Spini, University of Lausanne
  • Delphine Fagot, University of Geneva