Printed at: 06/12/2016  –  05:43:39

Understanding the Life Course: Sociological and Psychological Perspectives

By: Lorraine Green


Understanding the Life Course provides a uniquely comprehensive guide to understanding the entire life course from an interdisciplinary perspective. Combining the important insights sociology and psychology have to bring to the study of the life course, the book presents the concept's theoretical underpinnings in an accessible style, supported by real-life examples.

What do reality TV shows such as Supernanny really tell us about child development? Are teenage rebellions and midlife crises written into our DNA? Does being a grandparent - or even a great-grandparent - equate to being old? This book encourages readers to think about these questions by highlighting the many different ways the life course can be interpreted, including themes of linearity and multi-directionality, continuity and discontinuity, and the interplay between nature and nurture, or genetics and culture. From birth and becoming a parent, to death and grieving for the loss of others, key research studies and theories are introduced, and their contemporary relevance and validity discussed. All stages of the life course are considered in conjunction with issues of social inequality (such as social class, race/ethnicity and gender) and critical examination of lay viewpoints.

The book's comprehensive coverage of the life course counters the limitations of working with a certain group or age category in isolation, and its interdisciplinary focus recognizes the centrality of working in and across multi-professional teams and organizations. It will be essential reading for students on vocational programmes in social work, the allied health professions, nursing and education, and will provide thought-provoking insight into the wider contexts of the life course for students of psychology and sociology.

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First Edition
Publication Dates ROW:
Oct 2010
Publication Dates US:
Nov 2010
Publication Dates Aus & NZ:
Oct 2010

254 x 178 mm
10.00 x 7.00 in
224 pages
Wiley E-Text
First Edition
Publication Dates ROW:
Sep 2015
Publication Dates US:
Publication Dates Aus & NZ:
Sep 2015

229 x 152 mm
9.02 x 5.98 in
224 pages

* Exam copies only available to lecturers for whom the book may be suitable as a course text.
Please note: Sales representation and distribution for Polity titles is provided by John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

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'This is a most welcome book, written in a clear accessible style. It opens up some complex and challenging issues in ways that engage the reader and illuminate contemporary people-work.'
Community Care

'Learning and teaching about the human life course to student social workers in one module over one term has always seemed to me to be a tall order...However, having reviewed Lorraine Green's book, I can now confidently recommend this as an excellent place to start...Green's book is a rarity and a great achievement, providing the reader with a cogent account of the life course...Now, it is not only Green's students who can avail themselves of this knowledge; we all can.'
British Journal of Social Work

'Lorraine Green has produced an impressive and stimulating text. She rigorously shakes some of the lazy orthodoxies which can settle into our understandings of the human life course, yet the work remains accessible and relevant to both professionals and researchers who seek to understand this important domain.'
Sue White, Professor of Social Work, Lancaster University

'Ambitious, up-to-date and very readable. Drawing primarily upon sociological and psychological theory and research, Understanding the Life Course will be invaluable to students studying on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, particularly those on vocational and professional degrees in the broad health and welfare areas.'
Nigel Parton, NSPCC Professor in Applied Childhood Studies, University of Huddersfield

'Multi-disciplinary and theoretically informed, this book makes excellent use of examples and careful explanation to inform our understanding of the life course. Thought-provoking yet lively, clearly written and accessible, it makes a substantial contribution to the texts in this area.'
Serena Bufton, Principal Lecturer in Sociology, Sheffield Hallam University

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments page vii

Introduction 1

What this book is about 1

Why combine sociology and psychology? 3

Who this book is for and why it will be useful 3

Summary of the chapters: brief contents 5

1 Understanding the Life Course 10

Introduction 10

Changes affecting the contemporary life course in the UK 10

Unreality TV, people’s perceptions of human ‘nature’ and lay theorizing 14

Sociology and psychology 19

Life course sociology and life span psychology 23

Social science research methods 30

Life span psychology, life course sociology and multidisciplinarity 33

2 Traditional Psychological Approaches to Children 40

Introduction 40

Physical development and memory 41

Psychoanalytic development 44

The psychosocial approach 47

Attachment 48

Modern psychoanalytic theories and attachment 50

Cognitive development 52

Modern cognitive developmental theory 54

Learning theories 56

Language acquisition 59

Conclusion 61

3 The New Social Studies of Childhood 63

Introduction 63

Criticisms of developmental psychology 67

The ‘new sociology of childhood theorists’ and other social perspectives 73

Conclusion 86

4 Adolescence and Youth 89

Introduction 89

Adolescence and psychology 89

Youth and sociology 104

Conclusion 117

5 Young Adulthood 119

Introduction 119

Psychology and young adulthood 119

Sociology and young adulthood 128

Conclusion 147

6 Middle Adulthood 149

Introduction 149

Psychology and middle adulthood 150

Sociology and middle adulthood 160

Conclusion 172

7 Old Age 174

Introduction 174

Old age and psychology 178

Old age and sociology 187

Conclusion 197

8 Death, Dying, Grief and Loss 200

Introduction 200

Bereavement and psychology 201

The sociology of death and dying 206

Conclusion 218

Conclusion 221

Bibliography 227

Index 264

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Author Information

Lorraine Green is lecturer in social work at the University of Manchester.

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