Introduction: Life Course Studies – Trends, Challenges, and Future Directions

Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


The Handbook of the Life Course, published in 2003 (“Handbook I”), aspired to provide “an overview of key theoretical perspectives, concepts, and methodological approaches that, while applied to diverse phenomena, are united in their general approach to the study of lives across age phases” (Mortimer, Jeylan T & Michael J. Shanahan (Eds). 2003. Handbook of the Life Course. New York: Springer). Given the sustained usefulness of Handbook I, we agreed to edit a new “Handbook II” not as a second edition (i.e., an update), but rather as a second volume (i.e., with a distinct charge): to identify and explore new and emerging problems, concepts, methods, research questions, and analytic strategies. In this preface, we briefly consider the growth of life course studies and then turn to a broad overview of the content of Handbook II. This overview reveals many recommendations for future life course research. These range from increasing international scope and comparison; continued study of age- and cohort-related and intergenerational mechanisms; merging of survey data with other types of data; strengthening of causal inferences and obtaining more precise links among concepts, measures, and models; improvements in the measurement of key concepts; and integration of life course research with policy concerns, extending from the beginning of a research project to its conclusion. This brief summary does not capture the richness of Handbook II; we urge interested readers to peruse its contents.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Life Course Center and Department of SociologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologyWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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