Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 1996

The Historical Sociology of the Family and the Life Course in Comparative Perspective

Main discipline: Sociology
Lecturer: Professor Tamara K. Hareven
Institution: Department of Individual and Family Studies,
The University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA
Dates: 5 - 9 August, 1996

The course will focus on comparative aspects of the historical sociology of the family and the life course in relation to the process of industrialization. Bringing to bear the new scholarship that has emerged in the historical and interdisciplinary study of the family, the course will address specific themes by comparing Western and Central Europe, the United States and Japan. It will examine comparatively the role of the family in the process of industrialization in the three societies, both in the transition to the factory system and in a mature industrial economy.

Major themes for comparison will include changes in household organization, demographic behavior, family structure and kinship in relation to industrial work and the institutions of industrial capitalism. Since recent research on the family's relationship to the process of industrialization has reversed sociological stereotypes about the family's passive role in the process of industrialization, this course will examine comparatively the active role which the family and the wider kinship group had on labor recruitment, migration and the gendered division of labor. At the same time, the comparison will address the impact which industrialization had on the family and the various ways in which the family adapted to these changes.

Finally, the course will examine the changes in the life course, namely, the timing of life transitions to adulthood and to old age and their impact on careers, changing life trajectories and generational relations in the three societies. These comparisons will emphasize changes in the family in relation to structural and cultural change, and will make a contribution to the understanding of the complexity of social change. By addressing both the similarities and differences in patterns of social change, the course will provide criteria for a reexamination of modernization theory. Finally, the course will address future directions in comparative research.


  1. Introduction: Topics in comparative historical methodology.
  2. Proto-industrialization, family structure and the gendered division of labor in Western and Central Europe and the United States.
  3. Proto-industrialization, household production and the gendered division of labor in Japan, in the early 20th century.
  4. Industrialization, the emergence of the factory system and its impact on the family, migration and kinship in Western and Central Europe.
  5. The family's interaction with the early process of industrialization in the United States: the transition from single women's employment to the family employment system.
  6. Kinship, family organization and migration in the factory system in the United States.
  7. Comparison of the role of the family, kinship and the gendered division of labor in relation to industrial work and institutions in Western Europe, the United States and Japan.
  8. Implications of industrialization for the life course, the timing of life transitions, aging and generational relations in the three societies.
  9. A comparison of the life course of three cohorts in the United States and Japan.
  10. New Directions in comparative methodology.