“How People Recount Their Life”: Recording and Analysis of Individual Well-Being over the Life Course

Monday, July 14, 2014: 8:30 PM
Room: Booth 53
Oral Presentation
Nicolas ROBETTE , Université Versailles Saint Quentin, France
Constructing and structuring life courses through the perceptions of those concerned is a promising approach to the study of life-event histories. Pioneering sociologists have developed the qualitative analysis of turning-points based on subjective quality of life-course narratives (Hareven & Masaoka, 1988); we here present data from a quantitative survey which recorded individual life-event histories together with perceptions of well-being over the life course.

This unique dataset allows to explore the evolution of well-being from birth to age 50 among a representative sample of the French population. Respondents were asked to divide their lives so far into periods, and to explain and interpret these significant phases. They identified the turning points, the general tone of each period and what they saw as the landmark events.

Our initial analyses of this abundant material show how individuals’ life courses are structured around certain factual landmarks, especially landmarks in their conjugal and working lives, and the context of historical events. We also identify how individual characteristics influence the subjective description of well-being; the respondents’ subjective experience proves to be varied, non-stereotyped and not readily predictable.

Having established some of the relevant characteristics of the declared turning points, we then explore the changes in reported well-being from one period to the next within individual life courses. To explore the perceived life courses we apply Optimal Matching Analysis to draw out their main features and establish a typology of well-being trajectory types.

Hareven K. T et Masaoka K., 1988 – "Turning Points and Transitions: Perceptions of the Life Course", Journal of Family History, volume 13, Number 3, pp. 271-289.