Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Male Life Course

About two years ago I decided to do a self-guided version of a Men's Studies course. I did a fair amount of reading about men's lives with an emphasis on work, marriage and fatherhood. This wasn't an exhaustive review but included the things I could find (there's not a whole lot out there) and had time for. Here is a sampling of my reading list:
  1. Chicken Soup for the Father's Soul, 101 Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirits of Fathers by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jeff Aubery, Mark Donnelly, Chrissy Donnelly
This might be controversial but one of the conclusions I came to is that the basic ordering of life events in the American culturally approved life course for a man is
  • to complete an education
  • to get a job
  • to move out of his parents' home and live independently
  • to date a number of women
  • to meet the woman he wants to marry
  • to spend time as a couple
  • to marry
  • to buy a house
  • to set up a home together
  • and to have children
This is the model that young men are taught by American culture but it seems less and less common that men actually follow this path. Or maybe we're just hearing more about men that don't follow this path. In fact, I would suggest that many men actively rebel against this model, myself included. Each has his own reasons.

This is a topic that still interests me. If it strikes a chord for you let me know and we can dig a little deeper.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I really like to think of myself as "unique" or an "individual" so the fact that I have kind of followed the male life course as described by Bart is kind of disturbing.

Does doing "non-profit" work for a few years and buying our house before getting married count? Does being more self-involved so I want to put off having children for an extra 3-5 years count as a difference?

Has the course of life changed at all for men as economics have led to more choice? That is, was the male life course similar for ancient man? Did it only differ because certain institutions had not yet arisen (e.g. school, private property, church/state sanctioned marriage)? Have all cultures contained a similar male paths (accounting for minor differences)?

I'm also interested in the pace of change. Having unmarried couples have children, waiting until you are "older" to get married, or living together before marriage are all major breaks from past tradition --- and they have happened relatively quickly (30-40 years is my guess). If so, why do significant changes seem slow or minor from our current vantage poitn?