Theoretical Perspectives on the Sociology of Aging

  • Victor W. MarshallEmail author
  • Vern L. Bengtson
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


Throughout the relatively short history of the sociology of aging, many scholars have lamented the lack of theory and common conceptualization of issues (Orbach 1974; Maddox and Wiley 1976; Passuth and Bengtson 1988; Marshall and Mueller 2003; Bengtson et al. 1997). This reflects the growing opportunity for theorizing about age and age structure, but at the same time points to the continuing lack of agreement in theoretical paradigms or perspective – a problem that has persisted throughout the years. Our approach in this chapter is to provide a brief history of theoretical perspectives in the sociology of aging, and to indicate some areas where promising theoretical developments are emerging. First, we review theory development up to the late 1970s, when the field began to turn to the life course perspective. Second, we explore some of the more significant developments in theory over the past 30 years. Lastly, we preview a few challenges in theorizing for the future.


Social Institution Successful Aging Risk Society Filial Obligation Cumulative Advantage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer New York 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Institute on AgingUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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