“You don’t look your age”, or “She looks older”, or “I thought he must be younger!”… and so on. We have said that and heard others say that, either about ourselves or someone else. Let’s ignore the ‘why we pass such judgmental readings’, and think about ‘what in a person causes us to make such statements’. Not everyone is good at guessing how old a person is.
Besides the look of a person, what other information do we inquire about, or base our judgment about his/her age upon? Primarily, it depends on what he/she is: whether a student, working professional, housewife, married or single, etc. Whatever collaboration exists in our minds regarding ‘age’ and an individual’s primary activity, leads us to some kind of conclusion about the individual. This reasoning taking place in our minds is representative of the concept of the social clock. Let us find out how.
– getting the first job
– getting married (as teens, in the 20s, or later)
– having the first child, or being ready for parenthood
– buying a home
– age of retirementAge appropriate behavior, or the concepts of maturity and immaturity are all associated with social clocks ticking in different societies the world over. As observed by us all, these transition events are linked with attaining adulthood in life. However, assuming ‘marriage’ to be a necessary life task for recognizing complete adulthood is posed as a criticism against the early model of adult development.
– The average age of retirement exemplifies the difference. The percentage of people over the age of 60 in countries varies a lot; there is less proportion of people over 65 in the U.S. as compared to Mexico.
– Living with parents after graduating from school or even after marriage is common in countries like India and Korea. But it is completely contradictory to the lifestyle of young adults in some developed countries.
Despite the cultural variations in the versions of a social clock, the age and life event relation has undergone changes in all societies. It is considered to be a stereotype by many, as human life has and is progressing at a fast pace; leading to a life that is more individualistic. Reasoned, logical, and practical attitude towards life is prevalent among the youth today. With uncertainties in life about work, relationships, wealth, etc., and the practice of free-will, social norms anyway are less adhered to. Thus, the concept of social clock or such given ‘time frames’ for particular events in life cannot hold true anymore.
Studies undertaken in some universities questioning a varied age group, have concluded interesting responses that suggest fundamental changes in preferences pertaining to the appropriate age (a range in some instances) for getting the first job, marriage (or first marriage), parenthood, and retirement. First marriages during the 40s, or late motherhood, is increasingly noticed specifically in urban lifestyle. Nevertheless, these changing trends should not surprise us, because institutions like ‘family’ and ‘marriage’ itself are questioned today for their survival. So, probably it all comes down to ‘the right time’ determined by each individual for himself or herself.