Human development is often understood as an interplay between biological, sociohistorical, and social factors, as well as individual developmental actions. However, historical influences on development have rarely been investigated. The present study discusses societal change in the course of this century and investigates its impact on the life course by analyzing biographical narratives. This impact is illustrated by results from a study where participants from three birth cohorts (1920–25; 1945–50; 1970–75) were interviewed about important markers in their experienced and expected biographies. Although distribution of life markers over the life span was analogous across cohorts, participants from the younger cohorts perceived themselves as having more control on setting important life markers across their biographies. Their narratives referred more often to personal and less often to contextual and sociohistorical themes.

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