It is the thesis of this paper that the images and beliefs about any age group in a society indicate the kind of social order prevailing in a particular time and place. This paper critically analyses the developmental life cycle model from a sociology of knowledge perspective. It is argued that life's major activities and individuals' basic needs have increasingly become compartmentalized according to chronological age in modern Western society. This separation of basic activities and needs into specialized age roles is explained and legitimated by a popular belief in a model of inherent progressive life "stages", a model largely created by social scientists. I argue that this model has gained widespread popular acceptance and serves to blind us to similarities of needs among human beings of all ages, and also to each person's unique developmental process. Social science in creating a model that rationalizes age differences and age constraints as normal and healthy has intensified the problems created by rigid age grading, and an alternative model of the life course is offered in its place.

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