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The article alerts those in the field of quantitative life course research to the ontological impact of different forms of temporality. The first section reviews the influence of cosmic cycles, human development, historical, cultural, social and institutional forms of temporality on life course behaviour. Two central themes arise. Institutional calendars shape our everyday lives, and seemingly innocent calendars may influence behaviour. Furthermore, behavioural affects from cosmic and biological time are increasingly colonized by social constructions of temporality. The second section outlines how ontological perceptions of time shape the epistemological approach. The discussion separates temporal effects from what is an artefact of data, methods and methodology. Timing and method of data collection, memory, and self-registration influence results. The author suggests reflexivity, new interpretations of memory, and blending of methods and sources to improve research. © 2000, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Time & Society

Publication Date





91 - 127