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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: July 2019

Part II - Historical and Life Course Transitions: Economic and Demographic Change

  • Edited by Ross D. Parke, University of California, Riverside, Glen H. Elder, Jr., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • pp 23-162


In this chapter, we argue that the timing of societal events in an individual’s life plays a major role in shaping that life through interacting developmental processes at multiple levels. We focus on classic research by Elder showing how two such events in historical proximity dramatically altered the lives of California children who were born at opposite ends of the 1920s, 1920–21 and 1928–29, the Great Depression of the 1930s followed by World War II (1941–45) and the Korean War (1950–53). We employ insights from both Elder’s cohort historical life course approach and developmental science including recent work on developmental neuroscience to understand the life-long impact of exposure to events that occur at different times in life, and the mechanisms through which these exposures may influence development, as well as experiences that may provide turning points in development.