Book Reviews -- Experiencing the Life Cycle: A Social Psychology of Aging (2Nd Ed.) by Jeffrey M. Clair, David S. Karp and William C. Yoels

Article excerpt

Clair, Jeffrey, M., Karp, David, S., & Yoels, William, C. (1993). Experiencing the Life Cycle: A Social Psychology of Aging (2nd ed.). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. 259 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-398-05877-6, price $52.75.

The authors of this book employ a symbolic interaction perspective as the means to explore social-psychological aspects of the aging process. Their basic premise is that "aging is a social construction taking place within the confines of history and culture" (p. 30). This theme is carefully and effectively woven throughout the seven chapters of this book.

In the first chapter, the authors present examples of societal norms governing the aging process followed by a detailed presentation of the symbolic interaction framework. A general description of the basic tenets of the more predominant theories of aging (e.g., disengagement, activity, and age-stratification) are discussed in relationship to how each theory complements and is complemented by the symbolic interaction approach.

The social construction of age is the focus of the second chapter. The authors purport that we define ourselves in terms of our membership in particular age catergories and provide historical, cultural, and contemporary insight into the construction of five age categories: childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, and old age. They skillfully argue that these age structures emerged as a result of our changing interpretations of the meanings attached to behaviors expected by persons at various points in the life cycle.

Although the meanings of aging are influenced by the values of the larger society, they are also shaped by our involvement with members of our social network. The authors consider how our family relationships (Chapter 3) and work careers (Chapter 4) transform our sense of aging. As we move through the stages of the family life cycle, our view of being "on" or "off" time with respect to expected life events (e. …