Life Course Approaches to Health, Illness and Healing

  • Eliza K. Pavalko
  • Andrea E. Willson
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


The life course perspective provides a theoretical framework, concepts, and analytical tools for examining how individual lives unfold in historical and institutional contexts. Nearly a half century ago, C. Wright Mills described the task and promise of the sociological imagination as the ability to “grasp history and biography and the relations between the two” (Mills 1959: 6). In the intervening decades since Mills’ plea for the sociological imagination, life course scholars have illuminated both the challenge and promise of this endeavor, focusing on the importance of a dynamic view of individuals and their social contexts. The growth of a wide array of large, longitudinal data collections and the increasing availability of a wide range of statistical tools for longitudinal analysis have made attention to the dynamics of lives in context increasingly possible. In turn, interest in innovative methodologies and the availability of large, national data sets that focus on particular life stages, such as adolescence, midlife, or later life, have encouraged more scholars to incorporate elements of life course perspective in their research.


Mental Health System Illness Experience Sociological Imagination Health Trajectory Selective Mortality 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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