- The gradual process of a person’s relationships with others in society being severed and their quality being altered by the loss of those relationships.
- Individuals or society may initiate withdrawal, and it may be partial or complete.
- People who are older tend to be less involved with life than they were when they were younger.
- The older people get, the more they become isolated from society & develop new kinds of relationships with it.
- Older Americans may find that they are forced to withdraw by society whether or not they want to.
- Several critics claim this theory does not account for the fact that a large number of older people do not withdraw from society.
- In this theory, the process of getting older is attempted to be explained for the first time in a formal form.
What is String Theory?
Postulates of the Theory of Disengagement
- Postulate one
It is inevitable that everyone will die, and one’s abilities will decline with time. Each individual will be cut off from the rest of his or her society as a result.
- Postulate two
Individual interactions between people strengthen norms, so an individual who has fewer varieties of interactions can deviate less from the norms imposed by interaction. Thus, this form of disengagement becomes a circular or self-perpetuating process.
- Postulate three
Women have a socio-emotional role in America, while men play a centrally instrumental role. Consequently, men and women disengage in different ways.
- Postulate four
The ego undergoes changes throughout a person’s life. As an example, aging, which is a form of ego change, causes knowledge and skill to decline. A successful industrialized society demands certain knowledge and skills. In order to meet these needs, age-grading ensures that the young possess sufficient knowledge and skill to assume authority and the old retire before their skills deteriorate. This kind of disengagement occurs either within the individual, at the urging of ego changes, or within the organization, which is bound to organizational imperatives, or both.
- Postulate five
The result of complete disengagement is when both the individual and society are ready. Continuing engagement occurs when either is not ready. There is usually a disjunction between the expectations of the individual and the members of this social system when the individual is ready but society isn’t. Individuals often disengage when society is ready but they aren’t.
- Postulate six
A man’s role is to work, and a woman’s is to marry and have a family. A person who abandons their central role suffers a drastic loss of social life space and suffers crisis and demoralization unless they take on the new roles required by the disengaged state.
- Postulate seven
- Disengagement is prepared when an individual realizes the shortness of life and the scarcity of time, perceives decreasing life space, and loses ego energy. There is permission to disengage at each level of society because of the following factors: the rational-legal occupational system in affluent societies; nuclear families; and the differential death rate.
- Postulate eight
The relationships in the remaining roles change as fewer interactions and disengagement from central roles occur. This leads to more diverse rewards, and vertical solidarity is transformed into horizontal solidarity.
- Postulate nine
Although disengagement theory is independent of culture, the form it takes is shaped by it.
Critiques of Disengagement Theory
Disengagement theory caused controversy as soon as it was published. It has been argued that this is a flawed social science theory since Cummings and Henry assume that the process is natural, innate, inevitable, and universal. Associating sociology with a fundamental conflict between functionalist and other theoretical perspectives, some pointed out that the theory ignores the role of class in shaping aging, and others criticized the assumption that the elderly have no agency in this process, but are rather compliant tools of the social system. Other researchers have asserted, based on subsequent research, that the theory of disengagement fails to account for the complex and rich social lives of the elderly, and the many ways in which they engage after retirement.
The renowned contemporary sociologist Arlie Hochschild also published critiques of this theory. According to her, the theory is flawed because it has an “escape clause,” according to which those who do not disengage are considered troubled outliers. Additionally, she criticized Cummings and Henry for failing to provide evidence that disengagement is voluntary. Henry, in later publications, disavowed Cummings’ position and shifted to other theories that followed such as continuity theory and activity theory.