Age segregation

Age segregation is the separation of people based on their age, and may be observed in many aspects of some societies.[1] Examples of institutionalized age segregation include age segregation in schools, and age-segregated housing. There are studies of informal age segregation among adolescents.[2][3] Age segregation in schools, age grading, or graded education is the separation of students into years of education (grades, forms) by approximately the same age.

In the United States, graded education was introduced during 1848 to 1870.[4] Age segregation in the U.S. was a product of industrialization, Western formal schooling, child labor laws, social services agencies, and the rise of disciplines such as psychology and education. A combination of these caused a shift from family working as a unit to separation of economic activities and childcare emerged.[5] Some communities have different cultural practices and integrate children into mature activities of the family and community. This is common among Indigenous American communities.

Age segregation is seen by some like Peter Uhlenberg and Jenny Gierveld to benefit individuals by bringing like-minded individuals together to share similar facilities, network and information.[6] The elderly are however disadvantaged by segregation in that they risk being excluded from economic and social developments.[6]

Effects of Age Segregation

Researchers have argued that age grading in school has significant impact on age segregation among adolescent peer groups.[2] It is also present in the work force, which can make it more difficult for older adults to find jobs or change employment paths because of their age. They are often either expected to have a significantly larger background of experience in the field, or be far enough away from retirement to be considered.[7] Although seen less in younger adults and children, there is evidence[specify] that younger populations segregate within themselves. Until around ages 7 and 8, children tend to only associate with people within 2 years of their own age. Children mostly segregate from adults, showing less adult interaction as they move into their teenage and young adult years.[8] Studies suggest that the gap in age segregation will grow because of technological knowledge seen in younger adults that is not seen in older adults. It is predicted that younger adults will have to teach older adults about new social environments that will be essential to healthy living. Without these teachings, age segregation is set to increase.[9]

Some of the prospects for designing social life to overcome the entrenched practices of age segregation and the cultural assumptions through the life course is through a steady flock of opportunities for cross-age interaction, some settings facilitate age-integrated social relations. The most distinguished example is the family, in which children, parents, and grandparents frequently develop close cross-age relationships. Age relations within families vary across cultures and subcultures. According to Uhlenberg and Gierveld, many lower class black families in the United States have high levels of interaction with kin, and older adults. This often provides significant care for younger members in the neighborhood.[6]