Early models of adult development sometimes assumed that marriage is a requisite life task for full adulthood. Stage models posited a linear set of stages that people progressed through over the course of a lifetime. The concept of the social clock describes societal expectations for the time at which people are expected to marry, have children, and accomplish other life tasks. What are the implications of these expectations for the ways in which people who are single are viewed at different ages? For example, are people who have always been single viewed more negatively when they are middle-aged adults than when they are young adults? What are their actual experiences? That is, do older people who have always been single fare any differently in terms of health or well-being than people who are married or who once were married? (See also the section on Health and Happiness.)
Stage models, especially those that specify marriage as a necessary life task for adulthood, prejudge the lives of singles as deficient. More recently, scholars have questioned the adequacy of linear stage models, especially as age-based norms seem to have become less rigid. A few have attempted to address adult development issues as they pertain to people who are single. However, even these sometimes presuppose that singles must reconcile themselves to their single lives, rather than posing that possibility as a question that allows for positive construals of the single life course.
Baxter-Magolda, M. B. (1999). Constructing adult identities. Journal of College Student Development, 40, 629-644.
Carlson, J. (1974). Response. (To Kurth) Impact, 3, 5-9.