Agency, Motivation, and the Life Course

Agency, Motivation, and the Life Course

Agency, Motivation, and the Life Course

Agency, Motivation, and the Life Course


In what ways do individuals influence the course of their lives? How do people construct a unique life path within the opportunities and constraints afforded by their world?

This volume examines how agency in the life course can be conceptualized and investigates the specific ways in which personal characteristics and contextual variables play a role in shaping individual lives. The contributors offer differing perspectives on agency, how its expression changes over a lifetime, and how it is constrained, channeled, or altered by cultural and social institutions.

Each chapter focuses on one aspect of individual agency that can have a cumulative influence on an individual's life. Following an overview of the subject by Lisa J. Crockett, Jochen Brandtstädter and Klaus Rothermund provide a life-span model of agency focused on "intentional self-development" and goal accommodation. Ellen Skinner and Kathleen Edge discuss the development of coping, a potential underpinning of agency. In a concluding essay, Michael J. Shanahan and Glen H. Elder Jr. examine agency within a life-course framework, showing that the impact of individual agency on people's lives depends on the opportunities and constraints present during a particular historical era.


The volume editor for this 48th edition of the Nebraska Symposium is Professor Lisa J. Crockett. As the volume editor, Lisa coordinated the symposium and the editing of the chapters presented here. My thanks to her and to our contributors for their excellent presentations and chapters.

With this volume, we have continued to employ procedures that were designed to facilitate the attending of the symposium by scholars other than our main presenters. Specifically, to allow other scholars the possibility of traveling to the symposium as participants, we invite posters on topics relevant to the main theme of each volume. Since this is a tradition we intend to continue, we urge you, our readers, to consider such poster submissions when you receive future symposium announcements.

This symposium series is supported largely by funds donated in the memory of Professor Harry K. Wolfe to the University of Nebraska Foundation by the late Professor Cora L. Friedline. This symposium volume, like those of the recent past, is dedicated to the memory of Professor Wolfe, who brought psychology to the University of Nebraska. After studying with Professor Wilhelm Wundt, Professor Wolfe returned to this, his native state, to establish the first undergraduate laboratory of psychology in the nation. As a student at Nebraska . . .

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