The social dynamics of lifecourse timing in historical perspective : transitions in an Australian rural community, Boonah, 1850-1978

Cole, John R. (1982). The social dynamics of lifecourse timing in historical perspective : transitions in an Australian rural community, Boonah, 1850-1978 PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Cole, John R.
Thesis Title The social dynamics of lifecourse timing in historical perspective : transitions in an Australian rural community, Boonah, 1850-1978
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1982
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 637 (2v)
Language eng
Subjects 16 Studies in Human Society
210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Formatted abstract
Using data compiled in the reconstruction of 4,500 families who lived in the Boonah shire between 1850 and 1978, this study establishes the timing of individual lifecourse transitions in a socio-historical context. The underlying notion is that lifecourse transitions from infancy to school, from school to marriage and parenthood, occur in a dimensional perspective which is framed by the individual's historical era, background social characteristics and experience. Taking marriage cohorts as the unit of analysis, this study demonstrates that the shape of the lifecourse varied over time and within each cohort because of differential experience and expectation.

Lifecourse decisions are enacted in a world of rules and normative schedules reflective of a social and historical ethos. The assumption of various roles in life Is variable In its age-specificity, being derived of existent conditions, whilst at the same time effecting subsequent social reality. Thus the establishment of an Interactive context in which to view lifecourse behaviour is the essential aspect of this study.

Because a person's position in the social structure is important in moulding patterns of experience and expectation, local Boonah society is documented showing the relative compositions of socio-cultural categories over time. Having established the nature of the community, subsequent analysis tabulates the processes of social metamorphosis between 1870 and 1978 showing how mobility and inter-marriage re-defined the social composition of the population and with it the normative background to lifecourse decisions.

Lifecourse activity patterns are broken down firstly in terms of marriage cohorts to show the long-term trends, and then in terms of socio-cultural categories within each cohort which demonstrates differential experience borne of the variables depicted in the model. Interpretation of the data is further clarified by multiple regression and multiple classification analysis of lifecourse timing. Both processes point to the fact that the cumulative effects of experience, and the influences derived from individual position in the social structure were variable in shaping the lifecourse over time.

At a broad level, the evidence in this study highlights the fact that community behaviour is not always synonymous with patterns found in national aggregates. Certainly, in the timing of marriage and later in the forming of families, the Boonah couples reveal themselves to be out-of-step with Australian transitions. This owes much to the distinctive socio-cultural character of the Boonah community and demonstrates clearly the utility of local studies in dissecting the fabric of broader national history.

Indeed, this study is as much an exploration of the viability of a method of historical analysis, as it is of a particular topic. By combining inter-disciplinary concepts with a quantitative data base, it is possible to unearth something of the day-to-day ethos of people whose historical existence is largely forgotten. In so doing, the scope of Australian historiography is extended and the utility of the explanatory model of behaviour is validated.
Keyword Boonah (Qld.) -- Social life and customs
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Mon, 19 Oct 2009, 12:05:32 EST by Ms Christine Heslehurst on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service