Traditional and post-traditional life course
Sociology - Research group TOR Vrije Universiteit Brussel Brussels, Belgium
Sociology / Research group TOR Vrije Universiteit Brussel Brussels, Belgium
The paper looks at life course perspectives, i.e. the expectations of young adults with regard to their further life. The analysis is based on a purely random sample of 2832 inhabitants of Flanders (Belgium), aged 18 to 36. The identification of life course perspectives is based on information concerning the importance people want to attach to their primary and secondary social networks in the future, on the way in which they plan to spend their leisure time, the importance they want to give to partner, children and household, compared to other pursuits. On the basis of a principle component analysis 2 dimensions or desired life paths are distinguished. The first (family path) is characterized by a priority of the primary network, a desire to have children and spent time with them, as well with the partner and in the household, a home centered leisure time. The second path (ego path) attaches more importance to the secondary network, envisions active leisure outside the home, high levels of cultural participation and frequent (world)travel. Cluster analysis reveal 4 clusters of which the first (43% of sample) comprises people with an exclusive preference of the family path and the second (26%) an exclusive preference for the ego path.
Preference for the family path is higher among religious people and women. Preference for the ego path is influenced by the desire for self realization. The paths do also appear as rationalizations of the life stages of the respondents: the more life course transitions they have completed, the stronger the preference for the family path. Preference for the ego path strongly declines with age. On the basis of cross sectional analysis it is not possible to determine whether this should be interpreted as an age or a cohort effect, but since the model controls for completed life course stages, it seems plausible to interpreted it as a cohort effect: the ego path is a life course perspective induced by a shift in conceptions of self realization, but that is difficult to square with the existing family patterns and social meanings of the life stages.