Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Abstract

This qualitative, exploratory research examined the American life course through narrative accounts of twenty, former expatriates. All participants had lived and worked in another country for a minimum of at least one year before returning to the US. In-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted between April 2011 and June 2012. Interviews were unstructured and lasted between 1-2 hours.

Participants in this study were well-educated, middle class professionals with highly desirable skills. Yet, despite the flexibility that privileged status bestowed, participants maintained normative life course patterns. Families were instrumental in monitoring the life course and distributed sanctions and benefits to family members as a means of influencing life course decisions. Additionally, this research highlighted the amount of labor parents performed to prevent disadvantages for their children and to collect and maintain advantages. For parents moving overseas with children, the paramount concern was whether this move would disrupt the health or education of their children.

The primary finding of the study was the concept of continuity work and how people maintained continuity in their lives when a change in one spheres of life influenced other aspects of life. Participants used various transitional techniques to navigate life course changes such as combining states or bridging statuses. If the work required to synchronize life course trajectories was too great, than participants intentionally bundled multiple transitions as a way to change life course trajectories.

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