The PhD in Life Course Research

The theoretical premises of the PhD program

The life course perspective allows for a comprehensive study of how events that mark individuals’ lives in their key phases of development and decline manifest and change over time and space.


​Three principles provide the foundation of our holistic approach to the study of the life course:

  • Cumulative contingencies: previous experiences (including those in the womb) shape a person’s current status in different life domains (health, geographic mobility, family, work, and socioeconomic position);
  • Linked lives: events in one life domain (illness, job loss, divorce) can influence all other domains;
  • Historical time period and context: the period and the context in which individuals live influence the probability, the timing, and the sequencing of key life course transitions.


​An individual’s life course should not be considered an arbitrary chain of events. Rather, as experiences follow one another, people are increasingly directed into certain trajectories, and other options decrease in probability or become closed off entirely. Micro-level (individuals), meso-level (e.g., households, care providers, volunteering organizations, and firms) and macro-level (society, institutions) factors are all pivotal.

​We ensure synergies by design as the PhD Program in Life Course Research incorporates transdisciplinary perspectives that merge the biomedical, psychological, and sociodemographic. The PhD Program in Life Course Research will train a new generation of students able to triangulate concepts and methods from these different approaches to untangle life course dynamics.

 The PhD Program in Life Course Research will be based on and implement an evidence-based approach with a strong emphasis on quantitative methods and data analysis. In addition, qualitative approaches can reveal important insights into the opportunities and challenges individuals face.

What it offers
  • 3-year scholarships
  • A multilevel teaching structure with online and in-presence courses at the University of Florence and at the host Universities
  • 30 credits of disciplinary and transdisciplinary teaching
  • Dedicated Winter and Summer Schools
  • Up to 12 months of research period abroad
Job opportunities
  • Universities and Public and Private Research Institutes
  • Facilities of the National Health System, public and private specialized laboratories and clinics
  • Public, private or no-profit organizations of personal services
  • Pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnological companies
  • Public and private diagnostic research centers or laboratories
  • Insurance and consulting companies
  • Services for scientific communication and dissemination on life course-related themes
  • Foundations that finance research in the biomedical, psychological, socio-demographic fields
How to apply
  • Each scholarship is associated with a pre-specified general topic.
  • By selecting the topic, the candidate also selects the host university financing the scholarship, where he/she will develop his/her doctoral thesis.
  • To apply for one scholarship, the candidate must prepare a research project consistent with the pre-specified general topic associated with the scholarship.
  • The research project must follow the template provided.
  • Candidates may apply for more than one scholarship, and the same research project can be used to apply for different scholarships.
  • The scholarship is assigned based on the evaluation of the research project presented and an oral exam.
  • Candidates can express their interest in accepting any unassigned scholarships. The Admission Board can award unassigned scholarships to other qualified candidates within the same curriculum who can complete the research project.
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