Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Changing Patterns and Lived Experiences of Women Pursuing Higher Education Post-Marriage in India

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Changing Patterns and Lived Experiences of Women Pursuing Higher Education Post-Marriage in India

Article excerpt

Different genres of scholars from feminist theorists to economists have always pointed out that family obligations play a key role in women's career decisions (Hartmann, 1981; Moen, 1991; Wattis & James, 2013). But in recent times, a significant deconstruction of women's experiences of power, sexuality, reproduction and work within the family structure has attracted multiple researchers (Parikh & Shah, 1994; Rajadhyaksha & Smita, 2004; Palanivel & Sinthuja, 2012). This study uses the life course perspective to unravel lived experiences of women and their struggle to achieve higher education post marriage.

Life Course Perspective

The life course approach was first traced to the pioneering work of Thomas' and Znaneicki's 'The Polish Peasant in Europe and America' and Mannheim's essay on the 'Problem of generations' (Elder et al. 2003). The theoretical construct primarily defines the relationship of human behaviour and environment in the cycle of time. It looks at the transitions in a person's life from birth to death and focuses on the impact of various biological, psychological, social and economic factors. According to Hutchinson (2010), there are five basic concepts associated with the life course perspective--cohorts (a generational group of people of a given culture who experienced specific social changes at the same age and in same sequence), transitions (change in ones' role and status which is distinct from the previous ones), trajectories (long term patterns of constancy and change), life events (a major incident involving a sudden change with a serious impact and long term effects) and turning point (life event or transition that generates lasting shift in the life course trajectory). These concepts are the keys to understand the interplay in human life. The life course of an individual is viewed as a phenomenon. It is not only based on his role and behaviour connected with his biological age and stage of development but also linked to his shared relationships and the associated social meaning and interpretation of wider social, historical and cultural trends attached to it across time and space (Elder, 1980). It encompasses 'cohort variations, social class, culture, gender and individual agency' (Hutchinson, 2010: 21).

Basing on the fundamental conception, the life course perspective has been developed by scholars across various schools and disciplines. It has been approached from the perspective of individuals as well as collectives like the family. The life course perspective in the study of the family was propounded by Bengtson and Allen (1993). They viewed it as a 'contextual, processual and dynamic approach' to capture the change in the relationships and roles of individual family members and also family as a social unit over time (Bengtson and Allen, 1993: 492). To explain their perspective they derived four basic assumptions.

The first is the multi-dimensional assumption of time. Ontogenetic time refers to phases of development related to biological age from birth to death. The generational time relates to the 'biogenetic statuses within the family' and the respective roles, expectations and identities attached to it (Bengtson and Allen, 1993: 481). Historical time deals with the transitions in the individual family members and family as a unit over historical periods. Bengtson and Allen argues that the events which occur over these three dimensions of time have an impact on the individual behaviour, their social interaction and also on the social construct of families over time.

The second dimension is the social ecology assumption derived from Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Theory (1979). According to this assumption, the multiple systemic levels within which a family is located, have a direct influence on the events that family members experience over the passage of time. While at the micro-level, individuals' social interactions play a role, cultural values interpret life events at the meso-level and finally, the encompassing macro-structural context have a cohort effect on the family members and also on the family as a social unit placed in the ambit of ontogenetic, generational and historical time (Bengtson & Allen 1993). …

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