Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Adulthood and Aging: Research on Continuities and Discontinuities

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Adulthood and Aging: Research on Continuities and Discontinuities

Article excerpt

Adulthood and Aging: Research on Continuities and Discontinuities. Vern L. Bengtson (Ed.). New York: Springer. 1996. 391 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-8261-9270-x. $52.95.

According to Vern L. Bengtson, editor of Adulthood and Aging: Research on Continuities and Discontinuities, one of the central themes underlying Bernice L. Neugarten's studies of human development and aging is her recognition of "continuities and discontinuities as individuals negotiate the psychological, interpersonal, and sociohistorical changes that occur over their adult life course" (p. xv). A tribute to Neugarten, this book contains a rich collection of chapters and commentaries by her former students and colleagues on ways in which continuity is threatened by life course changes and sustained by adaptive change. The contents were initially presented at a conference in honor of Neugarten's 79th birthday.

In the foreword, James E. Birren discusses the benefits human development, compared with other fields of social science. Rather than dissecting topics, positioning itself as "heavily deductive in character," and engaging in "categorical divisions of subject matter," the field of human development, Birren writes, emphasizes integrating knowledge and accounting for "large and complex features of human beings," such as the social context in which individuals develop. The senior scholars who are authors of the chapters demonstrate these characteristics of the field in their studies on aging when they (a) explicate the advantages of a life course approach for understanding experiences of adults with late onset psychological disorders, persistent psychiatric illness, or physical illness; (b) examine constancy and change and consider the influences of social structural, psychological, and physical factors across a range of topics in late life, including widowhood, gender identities, normative and nonnormative intergenerational relationships, sibling closeness, modified extended family relationships, and personality; (c) posit a preventive and corrective model of successful aging that details external and internal mechanisms for managing normative aging stressors; and (d) explore patterns of constancy and change in age-based and need-based policies and in public support of programs for older adults. …

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