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Age Norms

Consequences Of Being Off-time

Individuals whose behaviors/transitions meet expectations are said to be on-time while those who violate them are labeled off-time, whether early or late. Violating age deadlines may result in punishing sanctions, but evidence of this is mixed and actually mirrors the previous discussion on normative influences on behavior. While attitudinal evidence from surveys of the general public revealed that many respondents perceived few consequences to being off-time in work- and family-related transitions (e.g., Settersten and Hagestad, 1996a; 1996b), other studies of smaller groups indicated that age norm violation may be met with sanctions as ordinary as a disparaging mark to someone who is not adhering to a "kinscript" (Stack and Burton) or a poor performance evaluation for someone whose career progress lags behind the timetable (Lawrence). The latter finding suggests that age norms can actually promote ageism if age-appropriate expectations lead to stereotyping.

Being off-time may have other consequences as well, one of which is individual stress. Most difficult are those transitions which are unanticipated (e.g., widowhood at a young age) since there may be a vague script for guidance and minimal support from others. Even planned transitions, however, when off-time, may result in little social support if an individual assumes a status when others in his/her social circle do not (e.g., having children much earlier or later than one's friends). Moreover, since transitions are never accomplished in isolation from other roles, being off-time can result in role overload (e.g., early parenthood may interfere with finishing school).

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 1Age Norms - What Are Age Norms?, Formal And Informal Age Norms, Variation In Age Norms, Age Norms And Behavior