- Life history
The term "life history" has been given many meanings in several scientific fields. It can refer to a variety of methods and techniques that are used for conducting qualitative
interviews, especially in the fields of sociologyand anthropology.
biologythe life history of an organism is sometimes used to refer to the reproductive cycle of animalsand plants.cite book | last =Smith| first =Robert Leo| authorlink =Robert Leo Smith| coauthors=Thomas M. Smith|title=Elements of Ecology | publisher =Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.| edition = Fourth Edition | date =2002 | location =Singapore | pages =567pp | url = | doi = | id = ISBN 981-4119-31-8 ] However, many biologists strongly prefer the term "life cycle" for such events and reserve the term life history strictly for the study of "life history evolution," the co-evolution of the traits of age-specific survivorship probability, age at first reproduction, clutch/litter size, and reproductive frequency.
Some use the term "
alternation of generations" when referring to algae, however as there are in many cases, especially the Rhodophyta, three stages the term "alternation" is not appropriate.
medicine, a life history may refer to a general health assessment or standard medical history. In seeking to identify certain healthpatterns, the interviewer may conduct a thorough interview. This form of interview can be utilized to find various kinds of sources for effects on the body and general health.
Life history theoryis an analytic method of sociobiologyfor understanding reproductive behaviors in animals and people.
In sociological and anthropological research, a life history refers to the overall picture of the informant's or interviewee's life. The purpose of the interview is to be able to describe what it is like to be this particular person, that is, the one being interviewed.
The method was first used when interviewing
indigenous peoples of the Americas. The subjects were native American leaders. One interviewed them, and the subjects were asked to describe their lives as such, what it was like to be that particular person. The purpose of the interview was to capture a living picture of a disappearing (as such) people/way of life.
Later the method was used to interview
criminals and prostitutesin Chicago. The subjects were asked to tell about their lives. The interviewers also looked at social- and police-records, and the societyin general in which the subject lived. The result was a report in which one could read about (i) Chicago at that particular time; (ii) how the subject viewed his own life (i.e. `how it was like to be this particular person') and (iii) how society looked upon the subject what the consequence of this was for that particular person -- i.e. `social work'/-help, incarcerationetc.
In both cases, the one doing the interview should be careful not to ask "yes or no"-questions, but to get the subject to tell "the story of his or her life", in his or her own words. It is common practice to begin the interview with the subject's early childhood and to proceed chronologically to the present.
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