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  • Author or Editor: Laura Bernardi x
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Mainstream life course studies often draw on a conventional understanding of time as a unidirectional clock-based entity, which proceeds in a uniform and linear manner. This paper argues that, in order to understand the social, relational and psychological processes of change and continuity that characterise life course processes, we need to adopt a more comprehensive and explicit conceptualisation of time – a conceptualisation that goes beyond an absolute (linear, chronological, uniform) definition – to incorporate the notion of relative time. Drawing on insights from narrative and biographical research, discussions of the temporal embeddedness of human agency and multidisciplinary research on time perceptions and time perspectives, we propose a definition of relative time based on three main characteristics: its multidirectional, elastic and telescopic nature. The paper promotes the integration of absolute and relative time in the study of life course processes, and the important role of prospective qualitative research in this respect, and outlines future avenues for research in this direction.

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