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Aging and Society, Volume 3

Aging and Society, Volume 3: A Sociology of Age Stratification

Matilda White Riley
Marilyn Johnson
Anne Foner
John A. Clausen
Richard Cohn
Beth Hess
Robert K. Merton
Edward E. Nelson
Talcott Parsons
Gerald Platt
Norman B. Ryder
Harris Schrank
Bernice C. Starr
Harriet Zuckerman
Copyright Date: 1972
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 668
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  • Book Info
    Aging and Society, Volume 3
    Book Description:

    Represents the first integrated effort to deal with age as a crucial variable in the social system. Of special interest to sociologists for whom the sociology of age seems destined to become a special field.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-683-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Orville G. Brim Jr.

    This body of work on age stratification stands in its own right beside earlier studies of religion, nationality, economic class, and more recently race and sex. Each of these areas of inquiry has shown how one or another place in the social structure powerfully influences the actions, feelings, and aspirations of people. Now, as the capstone of more than a half-dozen years of study on age and aging,The Sociology of Age Stratificationputs into focus this area of social science inquiry, essential to the understanding of social life and to policy decisions affecting social life.

    The major theoretical chapters...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    M.W.R., M.J. and A.F.
  5. Part One: Introduction

    • [Part One: Introduction]
      (pp. 1-2)

      Part 1 is intended to aid the reader at various points as he develops and organizes his own understanding of age stratification. It provides an analytical framework for dealing with this emerging field at several levels: with age as an individual attribute, with collectivities bounded by age-related criteria, and with the age structure of a society composed of multiple, coexisting cohorts (or generations). Above all, this framework stresses the dynamic potential of examining the relations between the rhythm of men’s birth, aging, and death, and the less predictable timing of social stability and change.

      Chapter 1 is a synopsis of...

    • 1 Elements in a model of age stratification
      (pp. 3-26)

      Age is an essential, though little understood, ingredient of the social system. Every society is divided into strata according to the age of its members. On the one hand, people at varying ages (or stages of development) differ in their capacity to perform key social roles. On the other hand, the age strata differ in the roles members are expected to play and in the rights and privileges accorded to them by society. Thus the social system, which depends upon the continuing performance of numerous age-specific functions, must accommodate the endless succession of cohorts (generations) that are born, grow old,...

    • 2 Interpretation of research on age
      (pp. 27-90)

      Age stratification, cohort flow, and aging are all areas abounding in misapprehensions. In this era of data banks, the accumulation of age-relevant material is far outstripping the development of relevant theory or the application of appropriate methods of analysis and interpretation. Yet the precise form in which any particular set of data is presented and analyzed places certain constraints upon the interpretation that can be made legitimately. And data on the age structure of a society, on the changes in this structure, and on the processes underlying stability and change take diverse forms. Any given set of data is a...

    • 3 Notes on the concept of a population
      (pp. 91-112)

      This essay is an attempt to identify some distinctive characteristics of the demographic approach to social analysis with emphasis on the contributions that can be made by the concept of a population. The effort has been prompted by several publications with similar intent but somewhat different conclusions. (See Hauser and Duncan, 1959; Grauman, 1959; Hawley, 1959; and also Schnore, 1961.) In the first section of this essay the basic population model is introduced and described. This model is then used to provide a basis for distinguishing the demographer’s special contribution to the study of population composition and population processes. The...

  6. Part Two: Age Stratification in Selected Aspects of Society

    • [Part Two: Introduction]
      (pp. 113-114)

      Part 2 consists of six interpretative essays on age stratification in selected social institutions. Contributed by authors with widely varied background and interests, these chapters utilize in diverse fashion the general theoretical orientations of this book. In the main, each chapter suggests hypotheses, raises questions, or supplies new material concerning the nature of age stratification, its variability under differing conditions, its underlying processes, and its intimate connection with social change. The combined chapters should begin to demonstrate the light to be shed on particular fields of sociological inquiry through the development of a sociological view of age....

    • 4 The polity
      (pp. 115-159)

      Observations of political differences between youth and their elders are perhaps as old as political thought itself, though whether youth are viewed as corrupters of cherished tradition or as bearers of the ideal society has, of course, depended upon the political philosophy (and probably age!) of the particular commentator. Despite frequently observed instances of age conflict, only in recent years has age come to be a variable of central and systematic interest in political analysis. This essay demonstrates how a diverse literature—on political participation and apathy, consensus and cleavage, socialization and deviance, issues and ideologies, process and change—can...

    • 5 The work force
      (pp. 160-197)

      The ways in which the revolutionary changes in education and retirement affect the work force are well known and have been extensively analyzed (like the accompanying retirement problems of older individuals and the problems of youth denied entry to the labor force). Not so well understood are the articulating processes that accommodate the constant succession of personnel within the occupational structure. For the work force is generally viewed as having a structure—one that undergoes orderly, or sometimes abrupt, change—despite the constant shifting of individuals in and out of work roles. How are the streams of individuals articulated with...

    • 6 The community
      (pp. 198-235)

      Analysts of the community have long been interested in articulating the relationship between the community as a social structure and the community as an ecological structure. To this twofold perspective, Bernice Starr, a member of the Rutgers Age Seminar, adds a third: the community as an age structure.

      The introduction of age as a central element of community analysis sheds new light on the social and ecological aspects of equilibrium, disequilibrium, and change. Implicit in Starr’s discussion is a fact of considerable significance: The equilibrium model of balance between needs and services in the social-ecological structure—a model that underlies...

    • 7 Higher education and changing socialization
      (pp. 236-291)

      The essay by Parsons and Platt attacks the fundamental question of the effect of historical change upon socialization and hence upon the very nature of the aging process. The authors, postulating that the increasing differentiation in the role structure of Western society requires parallel adjustments in the personality structure, describe changes in education that operate to meet this requirement. Thus the development of the individual’s capacity for full social participation, possible in an earlier era through childhood socialization within the family, has been moving up the stages of the life course through a graded school system, until it has now...

    • 8 Age, aging, and age structure in science
      (pp. 292-356)

      Scientists, and social scientists in particular, have come to recognize that increments of understanding are yielded by a conception of science that goes beyond cognitive structure and technological apparatus to include the social system of science. In this essay, Harriet Zuckerman and Robert K. Merton utilize this conception to broaden understanding in two major directions: the sociology of science and the sociology of age stratification.

      By introducing relevant concepts of age stratification into the sociology of science, they develop new theoretical statements and fresh evaluations of available evidence on such subjects as the relation between the growth of science and...

    • 9 Friendship
      (pp. 357-394)

      Friendship, a topic to which sociologists have devoted only fragmentary attention, is brought into new perspective by Beth Hess through the wide-ranging application of the literature on aging and society. Her essay illustrates the theoretical clarification to be gained from an analysis of the ways in which age enters into a given sphere of social relations. A volitional relationship, frequently enduring but sometimes transitory, friendship has often been judged of only minor interest to social scientists—as depending more upon idiosyncrasies of personality than upon regularities of culture and social structure, and as providing only a secondary and potentially tenuous...

  7. Part Three: The Nature of Age Stratification

    • [Part Three: Introduction]
      (pp. 395-396)

      Whereas the essays in Part 2 have illustrated various aspects of age in relation to selected spheres of society, Part 3 deals with age stratification as it intersects these spheres. The three chapters in this part, using ideas and examples drawn mainly from these essays and from Volumes I and II of Aging and Society, will specify in further detail the conceptual model outlined in Chapter 1 of this book, stressing two essential themes: first, the inevitable and irreversible processes of aging and cohort flow that produce age strata; and, second, the strains toward change arising from the arhythmic relationship...

    • 10 Age strata in the society
      (pp. 397-456)

      Beguiled by the fact that age and aging are characteristics of individuals, sociologists often overlook the crucial influence of age structure as a societal characteristic. Yet both the roles and the population in any society are stratified by age, much as they may be stratified by sex, social class, or race. Age, in Mannheim’s insightful formulation, “locates” individuals in the social structure. There is much evidence that, for example, a person’s activities, his attitudes toward life, his relationships to his family or to his work—as well as his biological capacities and his physical fitness—are all conditioned by his...

    • 11 The life course of individuals
      (pp. 457-514)

      Whatever the age structure of a society and however sharp the boundaries between age levels, individuals move more or less smoothly from each stratum to the next highest, somehow integrating their experiences into a coherent whole, which may be viewed from a variety of perspectives. From the perspective of the Bible’s “dust to dust, ashes to ashes,” the process is but one cycle in an infinite series. The early growth and late decline of strength and power over the course of a life also evokes the image of the “life cycle.” Another related image is that of successive generations coming...

    • 12 The succession of cohorts
      (pp. 515-582)

      The foregoing chapters have presented two equally dynamic, yet widely diverse, images: one, of the age strata in a changing society; and the other, of the individual as he changes over his life course. Chapter 10 has looked upon society as a shiftingage structureof roles, in which age defines the social locations of individuals alive at any one time. Chapter 11 by Clausen has described these social locations, from the point of view of the aging person, as asequenceof roles—roles in which the individual makes continual adjustments during his lifetime, to which he brings his...

  8. Appendix: Some problems of research on age
    (pp. 583-618)
  9. Subject index
    (pp. 619-642)
  10. Name index
    (pp. 643-652)