To what extent and in what ways do individuals engage in active life planning?
This project will explore the extent to which youth, adults and elderly individuals engage in conscious life planning. Theoretical discussions have emphasized that there has b een a historical shift towards increasing individualization, with a growing emphasis on individual choice and life planning. However, little is known about the extent to which people engage in such planning. Do individuals have the ability to plan ahead? To what extent do they feel the need to do so, and to what degree do they rely on others, like the family or the State, to structure their future?
To provide answers to these research questions, we use a theoretical framework that regards individuals' views on life course organisation as influenced both by characteristics of their micro-environment (past life experiences, individual opportunities and constraints, interdependencies, reference groups) and by national characteristics (economic security, w elfare provisions, culture of individualisation), and their interplay. For example, we will test the hypothesis that the organisation of the life-course is more flexible in countries with a high level of economic security, a strong welfare system and a cu ltural emphasis on autonomy. Gender contrasts are of special interest, since it is commonly argued that women's lives are more structured by micro-level factors than is the case for men. Our analyses will also allow us to explore life course consequences of recent cultural and structural changes in "countries in transition".