An Overview of Aging and Existing Cultural Differences
Society predetermines a specific life course for each person of their community. Missing any stage of this course is detrimental to the development of the human life. But not all societies have these stages of life; ergo different cultures define stages differently.
The stages of the life course are childhood, adolescence, adulthood, young adulthood and middle adulthood, old age and death. Society thinks of childhood as the first twelve years of life. In most cultures it is known as the time of autonomy from the weight of the grown-up world. But in other societies, such as Taiwan and Indonesia, childhood is seen as another occasion to send someone to work. The children do not have a normal childhood life of playing house and Barbie’s; instead they are in factories making shoes for approximately fifty cents an hour. In our society, ‘our concept of childhood is grounded in significant biological differences that set the young from the old’ (Macionis & Gerber, 2002).
The next stage of the life course is adolescence. This is the time where kids are in between childhood and adulthood. The preteen and teenage years comprise the stage of life when young people establish some independence and learn specialized skills required for adulthood (Macionis & Gerber, 2002). Adolescence is related with social and emotional confusion; young people have conflicts with their parents, and try to develop their own sense of identity. Adolescence is a product of culture. A study that was done in the 1920’s by Margaret Mead on the Samoan Islands shows that there was little stress among teenagers; their children appeared to move easily into adult standing. Our society, however, defines childhood and adulthood more in opposing terms, making transition between the two stages of life more difficult (Macionis & Gerber, 2002). The experience of adolescence also varies according to social standing and background.
Following adolescence comes adulthood which is made up of young adulthood and middle adulthood. ‘Adulthood is the period during which most of life’s accomplishments typically occur, including pursuing careers and raising families’ (Macionis & Gerber, 2002). Young adulthood goes from age twenty to about age forty. This is generally a time of engaging in many goals set earlier in life. Middle adulthood goes from age forty to about age sixty. This is a time when people reflect on what they have been able to accomplish, perhaps with great satisfaction or with the realization that many of the dreams of their youth will never come true. The experiences those go through during adulthood are different from culture to culture. In most societies it is considered common for young adults to break free of parents and learn to manage for themselves a host of day-to-day responsibilities. ‘However, it is common in countries like Japan to find extended families with up to three...