Lifestyle Essay Writing

I’ve been talking about writing with teens. We’ve looked at the power of exploring ideas, of opening our lives up to multiple viewpoints, to examining the opposition sympathetically so that we really know and understand a point of view that differs from our own.

Then I spoke about the value of essay writing. You may already be convinced of its value, but I hoped to also convey the role essays play in a person’s life. It’s not enough to just think about essays as a way to succeed so that your child will get into college, will succeed in college. Essays have intrinsic value. They train the brain to think in an ordered fashion, then enable the writer to look at holes in her own argument. They give the writer a way to organize and manage research so that she may draw conclusions and make sense of her learning.

Get comfortable reading the ways other people fashion their arguments or talk about the topic you love.

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Without an essay guide, you might feel you can’t even begin to teach your students to write them. Hogwash. Let’s look at some ways that you can start essay training right now.

1. Collect arguments

If your teen has a particular interest: car engines, laptop computers, software, Lord of the Rings paraphernalia, ballet, acting, theology, astronomy, quilt-making… begin to collect information that relates to these topics with a view to the inherent controversies within these fields. This may seem ridiculous on a first read. You might think: what is controversial about ballet, for heaven’s sake? But there are lots of controversies about ballet. One discussion involves at what age girls should be made to go up on pointe. Another is the tendency of ballerinas to have to binge and purge to keep their weight under control. Another is about the teaching methodology for young women, and so on.

If your child is a big LOTR fan, you might discover the huge undercurrent of controversy involving whether or not loving the movies constitutes being a “true” fan.

Every subject area has within it passionate people who are arguing about it, arguing to make it better, to expose its shames, to change its current form, to expand its use, to uncover its power… find the arguments. The easiest way to find arguments is to look inside the area you care the most about. You already know something of the topic. So now you need to find the places people argue about it.

Once you see that there are some controversies in the topics you care about (Shakespeare never wrote his plays… He didn’t? Who did? Why do you say that?), you can keep a list. Or you can simply bookmark the pages on the computer that have people arguing.

2. Join the fight

If your family has Internet access, the easiest way to grow as an expository writer is to join the arguments. Find the forums where people are discussing what you care about. There may be Yahoo groups, there may be forums (my daughter was on a fan site for Elijah Woods where she’s made lots of international friends and learned about vegetarianism, the European perspective on the war in Iraq and what made LOTR so great around the world, and my 13 year old son reads and posts on forums for astronomy and LOTR, my 17 year old son is a part of an online community that works on created languages like Klingon and Esperanto), there may be friends they meet through Live Journals who share their interests.

If the Internet is not your thing (like it is ours), you can look for groups in your community. Jacob has a connection to the observatory, my two older kids are connected to the Shakespeare company in town, I am a part of a theology series of lectures. Get to the places where people are actively promoting and discussing the area of interest you have so that you can enter into that discussion.

We call this the “Great Conversation.” Find out where the chat is happening and get in on it. Get comfortable reading the ways other people fashion their arguments or talk about the topic you love.

And of course, the library will provide you with books on your topic or magazine articles. I like the Internet because of its immediacy. But you can go these other routes if you want to.

3. Identify points of view in other writing.

Before your teen can write an essay, it helps if he’s read one. Seriously. Essays are the one format that schools demand their students write even though these same students have never read an essay in their lives. To write well, we need saturation, both with content for writing and in the format we plan to use. Kids write fiction more easily than non-fiction because they read so much fiction. For the essay, we find it difficult to obtain models. Because most essay writing is bland and for school purposes, you just don’t find books filled with examples of good essays.

There are two sources, however, that most students can read that are easily obtained and work as an introduction to how real writers craft an argument. Send your teens online to find reviews. They can read reviews of movies, video games or music. The New York Times has elaborate movie reviews (probably too long for our purposes, but the writing is so good). Still, Rotten Tomatoes is a great website for finding movie reviews in the dozens. Pick a favorite movie and read, read, read.

Be sure to read both favorable reviews (those with the bright red tomatoes next to them) and the flops (with the green splats next to them). Identify the arguments. How can one reviewer claim that the movie was visually stunning and directed with subtlety while another reviewer says the same movie crawled forward and had campy dialog? On what grounds do they support their viewpoints? If you’ve seen the movie they review, who do you agree with and why? How can you discredit the opposing viewpoint?

Do all this orally. The idea is to get into the art of arguing using support. Your teen can do some reading of reviews, can watch the movie and then can do a Friday Freewrite evaluating the the arguments of two to four reviews. Don’t worry about organization at this point. Help your teen get inside the thoughts/arguments of the reviewer. That’s the goal. The writing will go all over the place. It’s the thoughts you want to see. Did she use part of the story to show her point or did she make vague assertions like, “It was really good because the actor was amazing.” Ask her what about the acting amazed her. Can she show you instead of tell you?

If movies aren’t your teen’s thing, then music is the next best place to read reviews. Use Google, pick a band’s album and search it with the word “reviews.” Find two reviews that disagree and follow a similar process. The same can be done with video games, a favorite novel, plays, auto engines, computer software… anything that is performed or for purchase.

Once you’ve identified the controversy in your favorite topics, have found places where people are talking about them and then are reading writing that is crafted to argue a position, you are on your way to becoming an expository writer. Your teens can do this. If they spend time thinking in these ways, teaching the actual essay format will be a snap.

Need more help? Try out Brave Writer’s online classes:


Also, check out Brave Writer’s:

Help for High School

It’s a self-directed writing program for teens that both teaches rhetorical thinking in writing, as well as the academic essay formats for high school and college. Teens work independently of their parents, however rubrics for feedback are included, as well.

Image of girl reading by Dayna Barron (cc) / Blue background by Meg Stewart (cc cropped and text added)

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"Way of life" redirects here. For other uses, see Way of life (disambiguation).

Lifestyle is the interests, opinions, behaviours, and behavioural orientations of an individual, group, or culture.[1][2] The term was introduced by Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler with the meaning of "a person's basic character as established early in childhood"[3], for example in his 1929 book "The Case of Miss R.". The broader sense of lifestyle as a "way or style of living" has been documented since 1961.[4] Lifestyle is a combination of determining intangible or tangible factors. Tangible factors relate specifically to demographic variables, i.e. an individual's demographic profile, whereas intangible factors concern the psychological aspects of an individual such as personal values, preferences, and outlooks.

A rural environment has different lifestyles compared to an urban metropolis. Location is important even within an urban scope. The nature of the neighborhood in which a person resides affects the set of lifestyles available to that person due to differences between various neighborhoods' degrees of affluence and proximity to natural and cultural environments. For example, in areas within a close proximity to the sea, a surf culture or lifestyle can often be present.

Individual identity[edit]

A lifestyle typically reflects an individual's attitudes, way of life, values, or world view. Therefore, a lifestyle is a means of forging a sense of self and to create cultural symbols that resonate with personal identity. Not all aspects of a lifestyle are voluntary. Surrounding social and technical systems can constrain the lifestyle choices available to the individual and the symbols she/he is able to project to others and the self.[5]

The lines between personal identity and the everyday doings that signal a particular lifestyle become blurred in modern society.[6] For example, "green lifestyle" means holding beliefs and engaging in activities that consume fewer resources and produce less harmful waste (i.e. a smaller ecological footprint), and deriving a sense of self from holding these beliefs and engaging in these activities.[7] Some commentators argue that, in modernity, the cornerstone of lifestyle construction is consumption behavior, which offers the possibility to create and further individualize the self with different products or services that signal different ways of life.[8]

Lifestyle may include views on politics, religion, health, intimacy, and more. All of these aspects play a role in shaping someone's lifestyle. [9] In the magazine and television industries, "lifestyle" is used to describe a category of publications or programs.

History of lifestyles studies[edit]

Three main phases can be identified in the history of lifestyles studies:[10]

Lifestyles and social position
Earlier studies on lifestyles focus on the analysis of social structure and of the individuals’ relative positions inside it. Thorstein Veblen, with his ‘emulation’ concept, opens this perspective by asserting that people adopt specific ‘schemes of life’, and in particular specific patterns of ‘conspicuous consumption’, depending on a desire for distinction from social strata they identify as inferior and a desire for emulation of the ones identified as superior. Max Weber intends lifestyles as distinctive elements of status groups strictly connected with a dialectic of recognition of prestige: the lifestyle is the most visible manifestation of social differentiation, even within the same social class, and in particular it shows the prestige which the individuals believe they enjoy or to which they aspire. Georg Simmel carries out formal analysis of lifestyles, at the heart of which can be found processes of individualisation, identification, differentiation, and recognition, understood both as generating processes of, and effects generated by, lifestyles, operating “vertically” as well as “horizontally”. Finally, Pierre Bourdieu renews this approach within a more complex model in which lifestyles, made up mainly of social practices and closely tied to individual tastes, represent the basic point of intersection between the structure of the field and processes connected with the habitus.
Lifestyles as styles of thought
The approach interpreting lifestyles as principally styles of thought has its roots in the soil of psychological analysis. Initially, starting with Alfred Adler, a lifestyle was understood as a style of personality, in the sense that the framework of guiding values and principles which individuals develop in the first years of life end up defining a system of judgement which informs their actions throughout their lives. Later, particularly in Milton Rokeach’s work, Arnold Mitchell’s VALS research and Lynn Kahle’s LOV research, lifestyles’ analysis developed as profiles of values, reaching the hypothesis that it is possible to identify various models of scales of values organized hierarchically, to which different population sectors correspond. Then with Daniel Yankelovich and William Wells we move on to the so-called AIO approach in which attitudes, interests and opinions are considered as fundamental lifestyles’ components, being analysed from both synchronic and diachronic points of view and interpreted on the basis of socio-cultural trends in a given social context (as, for instance, in Bernard Cathelat’s work). Finally, a further development leads to the so-called profiles-and-trends approach, at the core of which is an analysis of the relations between mental and behavioural variables, bearing in mind that socio-cultural trends influence both the diffusion of various lifestyles within a population and the emerging of different modalities of interaction between thought and action.
Lifestyles as styles of action
Analysis of lifestyles as action profiles is characterized by the fact that it no longer considers the action level as a simple derivative of lifestyles, or at least as their collateral component, but rather as a constitutive element. In the beginning, this perspective focussed mainly on consumer behaviour, seeing products acquired as objects expressing on the material plane individuals’ self-image and how they view their position in society. Subsequently, the perspective broadened to focus more generally on the level of daily life, concentrating – as in authors such as Joffre Dumazedier and Anthony Giddens – on the use of time, especially loisirs, and trying to study the interaction between the active dimension of choice and the dimension of routine and structuration which characterize that level of action. Finally, some authors, for instance Richard Jenkins and A. J. Veal, suggested an approach to lifestyles in which it is not everyday actions which make up the plane of analysis but those which the actors who adopt them consider particularly meaningful and distinctive.


A healthy or unhealthy lifestyle will most likely be transmitted across generations. According to the study done by Case et al. (2002), when a 0-3 year old child has a mother who practices a healthy lifestyle, this child will be 27% more likely to become healthy and adopt the same lifestyle.[11] For instance, high income parents are more likely to eat organic food, have time to exercise, and provide the best living condition to their children. On the other hand, low income parents are more likely to participate in unhealthy activities such as smoking to help them release poverty-related stress and depression.[12] Parents are the first teacher for every child. Everything that parents do will be very likely transferred to their children through the learning process.

Adults may be drawn together by mutual interest that results in a lifestyle. For example, William Dufty described how pursuing a sugar-free diet led to such associations:[13]

I have come to know hundreds of young people who have found that illness or bingeing on drugs and sugar became the doorway to health. Once they reestablished their own health, we had in common our interest in food. If one can use that overworked word lifestyle, we shared a sugarfree lifestyle. I kept in touch with many of them in campuses and communes, through their travels here and abroad and everywhere. One day you meet them in Boston. The next week you run into them in Southern California.


Lifestyle research can contribute to the question of the relevance of the class concept.[14]

Media culture[edit]

The term lifestyle was introduced in the 1950s as a derivative of that of style in art:[15]

"Life-styles", the culture industry’s recycling of style in art, represent the transformation of an aesthetic category, which once possessed a moment of negativity [shocking, emancipatory], into a quality of commodity consumption.

Theodor W. Adorno noted that there is a "culture industry" in which the mass media is involved, but that the term "mass culture" is inappropriate: [16]

In our drafts, we spoke of "mass culture." We replaced that expression with "culture industry" in order to exclude from the outset the interpretation agreeable to its advocates: that it is a matter of something like a culture that arises spontaneously from the masses themselves, the contemporary form of popular art.

The media culture of advanced capitalism typically creates new "life-styles" to drive the consumption of new commodities:[15]

Diversity is more effectively present in mass media than previously, but this is not an obvious or unequivocal gain. By the late 1950s, the homogenization of consciousness had become counterproductive for the purposes of capital expansion; new needs for new commodities had to be created, and this required the reintroduction of the minimal negativity that had been previously eliminated. The cult of the new that had been the prerogative of art throughout the modernist epoch into the period of post-war unification and stabilization has returned to capital expansion from which it originally sprang. But this negativity is neither shocking nor emancipatory since it does not presage a transformation of the fundamental structures of everyday life. On the contrary, through the culture industry capital has co-opted the dynamics of negation both diachronically in its restless production of new and "different" commodities and synchronically in its promotion of alternative "life-styles."

See also[edit]




  • Adorno, Th., "Culture Industry Reconsidered," in Adorno (1991).
  • Adorno, The Culture Industry - Selected essays on mass culture, Routledge, London, 1991.
  • Amaturo E., Palumbo M., Classi sociali. Stili di vita, coscienza e conflitto di classe. Problemi metodologici, Ecig, Genova, 1990.
  • Ansbacher H. L., Life style. A historical and systematic review, in “Journal of individual psychology”, 1967, vol. 23, n. 2, pp. 191–212.
  • Bell D., Hollows J., Historicizing lifestyle. Mediating taste, consumption and identity from the 1900s to 1970s, Asghate, Aldershot-Burlington, 2006.
  • Bénédicte Châtel (Auteur), Jean-Luc Dubois (Auteur), Bernard Perret (Auteur), Justice et Paix-France (Auteur), François Maupu (Postface), Notre mode de vie est-il durable ? : Nouvel horizon de la responsabilité, Karthala Éditions, 2005
  • Bernstein, J. M. (1991) "Introduction," in Adorno (1991)
  • Berzano L., Genova C., Lifestyles and Subcultures. History and a New Perspective, Routledge, London, 2015.
  • Burkle, F. M. (2004)
  • Calvi G. (a cura di), Indagine sociale italiana. Rapporto 1986, Franco Angeli, Milano, 1987.
  • Calvi G. (a cura di), Signori si cambia. Rapporto Eurisko sull’evoluzione dei consumi e degli stili di vita, Bridge, Milano, 1993.
  • Calvi G., Valori e stili di vita degli italiani, Isedi, Milano, 1977.
  • Cathelat B., Les styles de vie des Français 1978-1998, Stanké, Parigi, 1977.
  • Cathelat B., Socio-Styles-Système. Les “styles de vie”. Théorie, méthodes, applications, Les éditions d’organisation, Parigi, 1990.
  • Cathelat B., Styles de vie, Les éditions d’organisation, pàgiri, 1985.
  • Chaney D., Lifestyles, Routledge, Londra, 1996.
  • Fabris G., Mortara V., Le otto Italie. Dinamica e frammentazione della società italiana, Mondadori, Milano, 1986.
  • Faggiano M. P., Stile di vita e partecipazione sociale giovanile. Il circolo virtuoso teoria-ricerca-teoria, Franco Angeli, Milano, 2007.
  • Gonzalez Moro V., Los estilos de vida y la cultura cotidiana. Un modelo de investigacion, Baroja, [San Sebastian, 1990].
  • Kahle L., Attitude and social adaption. A person-situation interaction approach, Pergamon, Oxford, 1984.
  • Kahle L., Social values and social change. Adaptation to life in America, Praeger, Santa Barbara, 1983.
  • Leone S., Stili di vita. Un approccio multidimensionale, Aracne, Roma, 2005.
  • Mitchell A., Consumer values. A tipology, Values and lifestyles program, SRI International, Stanford, 1978.
  • Mitchell A., Life ways and life styles, Business intelligence program, SRI International, Stanford, 1973.
  • Mitchell A., The nine American lifestyles. Who we are and where we’re going, Macmillan, New York, 1983.
  • Mitchell A., Ways of life, Values and lifestyles program, SRI International, Stanford, 1982.
  • Negre Rigol P., El ocio y las edades. Estilo de vida y oferta lúdica, Hacer, Barcellona, 1993.
  • Parenti F., Pagani P. L., Lo stile di vita. Come imparare a conoscere sé stessi e gli altri, De Agostini, Novara, 1987.
  • Patterson M. Consumption and Everyday Life, 2006
  • Ragone G., Consumi e stili di vita in Italia, Guida, Napoli, 1985.
  • Ramos Soler I., El estilo de vida de los mayores y la publicidad, La Caixa, Barcellona, [2007].
  • Rokeach M., Beliefs, attitudes and values, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1968.
  • Rokeach M., The nature of human values, Free Press, New York, 1973.
  • Shields R., Lifestyle shopping. The subject of consumption, Routledge, Londra, 1992.
  • Shulman B. H., Mosak H. H., Manual for life style assessment, Accelerated Development, Muncie, 1988 (trad. it. Manuale per l’analisi dello stile di vita, Franco Angeli, Milano, 2008).
  • Sobel M. E., Lifestyle and social structure. Concepts, definitions and analyses, Academic Press, New York, 1981.
  • Soldevilla Pérez C., Estilo de vida. Hacia una teoría psicosocial de la acción, Entimema, Madrid, 1998.
  • Valette-Florence P., Les styles de vie. Bilan critique et perspectives. Du mythe à la réalité, Nathan, Parigi, 1994.
  • Valette-Florence P., Les styles de vie. Fondements, méthodes et applications, Economica, Parigi, 1989.
  • Valette-Florence P., Jolibert A., Life-styles and consumption patterns, Publications de recherche du CERAG, École supériore des affaires de Grenoble, 1988.
  • Veal A. J., The concept of lifestyle. A review, in “Leisure studies”, 1993, vol. 12, n. 4, pp. 233–252.
  • Vergati S., Stili di vita e gruppi sociali, Euroma, Roma, 1996.
  • Walters G. D., Beyond behavior. Construction of an overarching psychological theory of lifestyles, Praeger, Westport, 2000.
  • Wells W. (a cura di), Life-style and psycographics, American marketing association, Chicago, 1974.
  • Yankelovich D., New criteria for market segmentation, in “Harvard business review”, 1964, vol. 42, n. 2, pp. 83–90.
  • Yankelovich D., Meer D., Rediscovering market segmentation, in “Harvard business review”, 2006, febbraio, pp. 1–10.
  1. ^ Lifestyle from Merriam-Webster's Dictionary
  2. ^Lynn R. Kahle; Angeline G. Close (2011). Consumer Behavior Knowledge for Effective Sports and Event Marketing. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-87358-1. 
  3. ^Online Etymology Dictionary
  4. ^Online Etymology Dictionary
  5. ^Spaargaren, G., and B. VanVliet (2000) "Lifestyle, Consumption and the Environment: The Ecological Modernisation of Domestic Consumption", Environmental Politics 9(1): 50-75.
  6. ^Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and self-identity: self and society in the late modern age, Cambridge: Polity Press
  7. ^Lynn R. Kahle, Eda Gurel-Atay, Eds (2014). Communicating Sustainability for the Green Economy. New York: M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 978-0-7656-3680-5. 
  8. ^Ropke, I. (1999) "The Dynamics of Willingness to Consume", Ecological Economics 28: 399-420.
  9. ^Giuffrâe, K., & DiGeronimo, T. (1999) Care and Feeding of Your Brain : How Diet and Environment Affect What You Think and Feel, Career Press.
  10. ^Berzano L., Genova C., Lifestyles and Subcultures. History and a New Perspective, Routledge, London, 2015 (Part I).
  11. ^Ponthiere G. (2011) "Mortality, Family and Lifestyles", Journal of Family and Economic Issues 32 (2): 175-190
  12. ^Case, A., Lubotsky D. & Paxson C. (2002) "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient", The American Economic Review 92(5): 1308-1334
  13. ^William Dufty (1975) Sugar Blues, page 204
  14. ^Bögenhold, Dieter. "Social Inequality and the Sociology of Life Style: Material and Cultural Aspects of Social Stratification". American Journal of Economics and Sociology. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  15. ^ abBernstein (1991) p.23
  16. ^Adorno [1963] p.98


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