De-Standardization of the Life Course: What it Might Mean? And if it Means Anything, Whether it Actually Took Place?

Hannah Brückner, Karl Ulrich Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We explore both conceptually and empirically whether and how precise meanings and measures can be attached to recent ideas about the transformation of the life course. With data from the German Life History Study (GLHS), we assess social change in the transition to adulthood for birth cohorts born between 1921 and 1971, focusing on the de-standardization hypothesis. While we see increasing de-coupling of events in the connections between the school-training-work nexus and family formation, the institutional environment continues to structure the school-training-work nexus and not much change was seen in the way in which cohort members undergo these transitions. On the contrary, there is actually a homogenization as women's and men's life courses converge in terms of education and labor force participation. It is the family formation nexus that shows the most pronounced changes. This is also the realm in which gender differences persist across cohorts. While we find strong evidence for period effects that produce inter-cohort differences in life course patterns, taken as a whole our indicators do not point to a general process of a de-standardization of the life course.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-53
Number of pages27
JournalAdvances in Life Course Research
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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