Quasi adult, quasi old: why anticipate life cycle phases?

By observing two different generations of women, one discovers that there is a phenomenon whereby the passage from one phase of the lifecycle to the following one may be anticipated. This phenomenon calls for interpretation. Many girls, for instance, get pregnant and, whether or not they get married, become mothers. Many women aged forty-five to fifty, on the other hand, join "senior citizen" groups. The interpretation that this essay proposes examines the consequences of: 1) demographic transition (and the resulting aging of the population), which lends particular visibility to these two generations; 2) exclusion from the job market; 3) government actions; 4) rising individualism; and 5) the logic of gender and generation relations in households. In order to explain the behavior of very nearly adult women and of women who are almost old, two groups that anticipate life cycle phases, one resorts to a combination of the above factors culminating in the establishment of a condition of generational borderlines, typical of rites of passage, and the construction of processes of de-ritualization and re-ritualization within current society.

life-cycle phases; generation relations; societies

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