Adaptation to Life
George E. Vaillant Harvard University Press, 1998 Library of Congress BF335.V35 1995 | Dewey Decimal 155.6
Between 1939 and 1942, one of America's leading universities recruited 268 of its healthiest and most promising undergraduates to participate in a revolutionary new study of the human life cycle. The originators of the program, which came to be known as the Grant Study, felt that medical research was too heavily weighted in the direction of disease, and their intent was to chart the ways in which a group of promising individuals coped with their lives over the course of many years.
Nearly forty years later, George E. Vaillant, director of the Study, took the measure of the Grant Study men. The result was the compelling, provocative classic, Adaptation to Life, which poses fundamental questions about the individual differences in confronting life's stresses. Why do some of us cope so well with the portion life offers us, while others, who have had similar advantages (or disadvantages), cope badly or not at all? Are there ways we can effectively alter those patterns of behavior that make us unhappy, unhealthy, and unwise?
George Vaillant discusses these and other questions in terms of a clearly defined scheme of "adaptive mechanisms" that are rated mature, neurotic, immature, or psychotic, and illustrates, with case histories, each method of coping.
With hate crimes on the rise and social movements like Black Lives Matter bringing increased attention to the issue of police brutality, the American public continues to be divided by issues of race. How do adolescents and young adults form friendships and romantic relationships that bridge the racial divide? In The Company We Keep, sociologists Grace Kao, Kara Joyner, and Kelly Stamper Balistreri examine how race, gender, socioeconomic status, and other factors affect the formation of interracial friendships and romantic relationships among youth. They highlight two factors that increase the likelihood of interracial romantic relationships in young adulthood: attending a diverse school and having an interracial friendship or romance in adolescence.
While research on interracial social ties has often focused on whites and blacks, Hispanics are the largest minority group and Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the United States. The Company We Keep examines friendships and romantic relationships among blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asian Americans to better understand the full spectrum of contemporary race relations. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the authors explore the social ties of more than 15,000 individuals from their first survey responses as middle and high school students in the mid-1990s through young adulthood nearly fifteen years later. They find that while approval for interracial marriages has increased and is nearly universal among young people, interracial friendships and romantic relationships remain relatively rare, especially for whites and blacks. Black women are particularly disadvantaged in forming interracial romantic relationships, while Asian men are disadvantaged in the formation of any romantic relationships, both as adolescents and as young adults. They also find that people in same-sex romantic relationships are more likely to have partners from a different racial group than are people in different-sex relationships. The authors pay close attention to how the formation of interracial friendships and romantic relationships depends on opportunities for interracial contact. They find that the number of students choosing different-race friends and romantic partners is greater in schools that are more racially diverse, indicating that school segregation has a profound impact on young people’s social ties.
Kao, Joyner, and Balistreri analyze the ways school diversity and adolescent interracial contact intersect to lay the groundwork for interracial relationships in young adulthood. The Company We Keep provides compelling insights and hope for the future of living and loving across racial divides.
At what age do girls gain the maturity to make sexual choices? This question provokes especially vexed debates in India, where early marriage is a widespread practice. India has served as a focal problem site in NGO campaigns and intergovernmental conferences setting age standards for sexual maturity. Over the last century, the country shifted the legal age of marriage from twelve, among the lowest in the world, to eighteen, at the high end of the global spectrum. Ashwini Tambe illuminates the ideas that shaped such shifts: how the concept of adolescence as a sheltered phase led to delaying both marriage and legal adulthood; how the imperative of population control influenced laws on marriage age; and how imperial moral hierarchies between nations provoked defensive postures within India. Tambe takes a transnational feminist approach to legal history, showing how intergovernmental debates influenced Indian laws and how expert discourses in India changed UN terminology about girls. Ultimately, Tambe argues, the well-meaning focus on child marriage has been tethered less to the interests of girls themselves and more to parents’ interests, achieving population control targets, and preserving national reputation.
Adolescence is a difficult time, but it can be particularly stressful for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identifying youth. In order to avoid harassment and rejection, many LGBTQ teens hide their identities from their families, peers, and even themselves.
Educator Michael Sadowski deftly brings the voices of LGBTQ youth out into the open in his poignant and important book, In a Queer Voice. Drawing on two waves of interviews conducted six years apart, Sadowski chronicles how queer youth, who were often “silenced” in school and elsewhere, now can approach adulthood with a strong, queer voice.
In a Queer Voice continues the critical conversation about LGBTQ youth issues—from bullying and suicide to other risks involving drug and alcohol abuse—by focusing on the factors that help young people develop positive, self-affirming identities. Using the participants’ heartfelt, impassioned voices, we hear what schools, families, and communities can do to help LGBTQ youth become resilient, confident adults.
If contemporary culture were a school, with all the tasks and expectations meted out by modern life as its curriculum, would anyone graduate? In the spirit of a sympathetic teacher, Robert Kegan guides us through this tricky curriculum, assessing the fit between its complex demands and our mental capacities, and showing what happens when we find ourselves, as we so often do, in over our heads. In this dazzling intellectual tour, he completely reintroduces us to the psychological landscape of our private and public lives.
A decade ago in The Evolving Self, Kegan presented a dynamic view of the development of human consciousness. Here he applies this widely acclaimed theory to the mental complexity of adulthood. As parents and partners, employees and bosses, citizens and leaders, we constantly confront a bewildering array of expectations, prescriptions, claims, and demands, as well as an equally confusing assortment of expert opinions that tell us what each of these roles entails. Surveying the disparate expert “literatures,” which normally take no account of each other, Kegan brings them together to reveal, for the first time, what these many demands have in common. Our frequent frustration in trying to meet these complex and often conflicting claims results, he shows us, from a mismatch between the way we ordinarily know the world and the way we are unwittingly expected to understand it.
In Over Our Heads provides us entirely fresh perspectives on a number of cultural controversies—the “abstinence vs. safe sex” debate, the diversity movement, communication across genders, the meaning of postmodernism. What emerges in these pages is a theory of evolving ways of knowing that allows us to view adult development much as we view child development, as an open-ended process born of the dynamic interaction of cultural demands and emerging mental capabilities. If our culture is to be a good “school,” as Kegan suggests, it must offer, along with a challenging curriculum, the guidance and support that we clearly need to master this course—a need that this lucid and richly argued book begins to meet.
A volume in the American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology West Baltimore stands out in the popular imagination as the quintessential “inner city”—gritty, run-down, and marred by drugs and gang violence. Indeed, with the collapse of manufacturing jobs in the 1970s, the area experienced a rapid onset of poverty and high unemployment, with few public resources available to alleviate economic distress. But in stark contrast to the image of a perpetual “urban underclass” depicted in television by shows like The Wire, sociologists Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Linda Olson present a more nuanced portrait of Baltimore’s inner city residents that employs important new research on the significance of early-life opportunities available to low-income populations. The Long Shadow focuses on children who grew up in west Baltimore neighborhoods and others like them throughout the city, tracing how their early lives in the inner city have affected their long-term well-being. Although research for this book was conducted in Baltimore, that city’s struggles with deindustrialization, white flight, and concentrated poverty were characteristic of most East Coast and Midwest manufacturing cities. The experience of Baltimore’s children who came of age during this era is mirrored in the experiences of urban children across the nation. For 25 years, the authors of The Long Shadow tracked the life progress of a group of almost 800 predominantly low-income Baltimore school children through the Beginning School Study Youth Panel (BSSYP). The study monitored the children’s transitions to young adulthood with special attention to how opportunities available to them as early as first grade shaped their socioeconomic status as adults. The authors’ fine-grained analysis confirms that the children who lived in more cohesive neighborhoods, had stronger families, and attended better schools tended to maintain a higher economic status later in life. As young adults, they held higher-income jobs and had achieved more personal milestones (such as marriage) than their lower-status counterparts. Differences in race and gender further stratified life opportunities for the Baltimore children. As one of the first studies to closely examine the outcomes of inner-city whites in addition to African Americans, data from the BSSYP shows that by adulthood, white men of lower status family background, despite attaining less education on average, were more likely to be employed than any other group in part due to family connections and long-standing racial biases in Baltimore’s industrial economy. Gender imbalances were also evident: the women, who were more likely to be working in low-wage service and clerical jobs, earned less than men. African American women were doubly disadvantaged insofar as they were less likely to be in a stable relationship than white women, and therefore less likely to benefit from a second income. Combining original interviews with Baltimore families, teachers, and other community members with the empirical data gathered from the authors’ groundbreaking research, The Long Shadow unravels the complex connections between socioeconomic origins and socioeconomic destinations to reveal a startling and much-needed examination of who succeeds and why.
On the Frontier of Adulthood reveals a startling new fact: adulthood no longer begins when adolescence ends. A lengthy period before adulthood, often spanning the twenties and even extending into the thirties, is now devoted to further education, job exploration, experimentation in romantic relationships, and personal development. Pathways into and through adulthood have become much less linear and predictable, and these changes carry tremendous social and cultural significance, especially as institutions and policies aimed at supporting young adults have not kept pace with these changes.
This volume considers the nature and consequences of changes in early adulthood by drawing upon a wide variety of historical and contemporary data from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. Especially dramatic shifts have occurred in the conventional markers of adulthood—leaving home, finishing school, getting a job, getting married, and having children—and in how these experiences are configured as a set. These accounts reveal how the process of becoming an adult has changed over the past century, the challenges faced by young people today, and what societies can do to smooth the transition to adulthood.
"This book is the most thorough, wide-reaching, and insightful analysis of the new life stage of early adulthood."—Andrew Cherlin, Johns Hopkins University
"From West to East, young people today enter adulthood in widely diverse ways that affect their life chances. This book provides a rich portrait of this journey-an essential font of knowledge for all who care about the younger generation."—Glen H. Elder Jr., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"On the Frontier of Adulthood adds considerably to our knowledge about the transition from adolescence to adulthood. . . . It will indeed be the definitive resource for researchers for years to come. Anyone working in the area—whether in demography, sociology, economics, or developmental psychology—will wish to make use of what is gathered here."—John Modell, Brown University
"This is a must-read for scholars and policymakers who are concerned with the future of today's youth and will become a touchpoint for an emerging field of inquiry focused on adult transitions."—Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Columbia University
Once I Was Cool contrasts past aspirations with the mess and magic of the present. In her younger days, essayist Megan Stielstra saw Jane’s Addiction at the Aragon Ballroom and fantasized about living on the same block, right in the thick of music and revelry. As an adult, she lives in a turreted condo across the street, with her husband, a child, and an onerous mortgage. It’s just the home her young, cool self imagined. And it isn’t what she expected, either.
With conversational flourishes and on-the-mark descriptions, Stielstra’s essays evoke the richness of her everyday life and the memories that are never far away. She remembers learning how to shoot a gun, a cancer scare, and—in a piece that was anthologized in The Best American Essays 2013—the time she eavesdropped on another new mother using her son’s baby monitor. “I shouldn’t have listened,” she writes. “But it was the first time since my son was born that I didn’t feel alone.” Combining footnotes, electric sentences, and uproariously funny anecdotes (have you ever run into an ex while rolling on ecstasy?), Stielstra shows us that maturity is demanding, but its rewards are a gift.
Persona is the Latin word for the mask used in Greek drama with which the actor assumed his role and defined his identity. Perlman analyzes the way in which adult roles assumed in work, marriage, and parenthood continue to shape human personality. Referring to Freud's definition of maturity as the ability to love and to work, she discusses how a person makes himself known through the roles involved in loving and working, what expectations a person brings to each role, and what personal changes can come about through the demands of being a worker, marriage partner, and parent.
In the wake of World War II, the issues of political stability in general and the survival of stable democracies in particular captured the attention of American political scientists. An inevitable offshoot of this interest was the study of political behavior—how it is acquired and how and why it persists. In its early stages, work on political socialization focused exclusively on childhood and adolescence, as if the learning process ends when adulthood begins. Only recently has adult socialization emerged as a legitimate field of study within political science.
In Political Learning in Adulthood, social scientists for the first time examine the changes in political outlook and behavior that take place during the adult years, providing an invaluable overview of the problems, theories, and methodological approaches that characterize the field of political socialization. They consider which political values remain constant and which are subject to change, and they explore the ways in which both ordinary and extraordinary life events affect adults' political worldviews. Among specific topics considered are the effects of age and aging, the relation between participation in the work force and the development and expression of political views, continuity and change in the wake of revolutionary social and political movements, and the effects of such traumatic and life-threatening situations as war and terrorist activity.
More and more young men and women today are taking longer and having more difficulty making a successful transition to adulthood. They are staying in school longer, having a harder time finding steady employment at jobs that provide health insurance, and are not marrying and having children until much later in life than their parents did. In The Price of Independence, a roster of distinguished experts diagnose the extent and causes of these trends. Observers of social trends have speculated on the economic changes that may be delaying the transition to adulthood—from worsening job opportunities to mounting student debt and higher housing costs—but few have offered empirical evidence to back up their claims. The Price of Independence represents the first significant analysis of these economic explanations, charting the evolving life circumstances of eighteen to thirty-five year-olds over the last few decades. Lisa Bell, Gary Burtless, Janet Gornick, and Timothy M. Smeeding show that the earnings of young workers in the United States and a number of industrialized countries have declined relative to the cost of supporting a family, which may explain their protracted dependence. In addition, Henry Farber finds that job stability for young male workers has dropped over the last generation. But while economic factors have some influence on young people's transitions to adulthood, The Price of Independence shows that changes in the economic climate can not account for the magnitude of the societal shift in the timing of independent living, marriage, and childbearing. Aaron Yelowitz debunks the myth that steep housing prices are forcing the young to live at home—housing costs actually fell between 1980 and 2000 once lower interest rates and tax subsidies are taken into account. And Ngina Chiteji reveals that average student loan debt is only $3,500 per household. The trend toward starting careers and families later appears to have more to do with changing social norms, as well as policies that have broadened access to higher education, than with changes in the economy. For better or worse, the current generation is redefining the nature and boundaries of what it means to be a young adult. The Price of Independence documents just how dramatically the modern lifecycle has changed and offers evidence as an antidote to much of the conventional wisdom about these social changes.
Adulthood today is undergoing profound transformations. Men and women wait until their thirties to marry, have children, and establish full-time careers, occupying a prolonged period in which they are no longer adolescents but still lack the traditional emblems of adult identity. People at midlife struggle to sustain relationships with friends and partners, to find employment and fulfilling careers, to raise their children successfully, and to resist the aging process.
The Prime of Life puts today’s challenges into new perspective by exploring how past generations navigated the passage to maturity, achieved intimacy and connection, raised children, sought meaning in work, and responded to loss. Coming of age has never been easy or predictable, Steven Mintz shows, and the process has always been shaped by gender and class. But whereas adulthood once meant culturally-prescribed roles and relationships, the social and economic convulsions of the last sixty years have transformed it fundamentally, tearing up these shared scripts and leaving adults to fashion meaning and coherence in an increasingly individualistic culture.
Mintz reconstructs the emotional interior of a life stage too often relegated to self-help books and domestic melodramas. Emphasizing adulthood’s joys and fulfillments as well as its frustrations and regrets, he shows how cultural and historical circumstances have consistently reshaped what it means to be a grown up in contemporary society. The Prime of Life urges us to confront adulthood’s realities with candor and determination and to value and embrace the responsibility, sensible judgment, wisdom, and compassionate understanding it can bring.
Social scientists generally agree that relations between the different life stages in advanced industrial societies are changing. Far less agreement exists over how to interpret these changes. Using an innovative approach to the study of life course, Marlis Buchmann explores the changes in educational, occupational, and family careers that threaten an end to familiar life patterns characteristic of the mid-twentieth century.
The lives of youth with disabilities have changed radically in the past fifty years. Youth who are coming of age right now are the first generation to receive educational services throughout childhood and adolescence. Disability policies have opened up opportunities to youth, and they have responded by getting higher levels of education than ever before. Yet many youth are being left behind, compared to their peers without disabilities. Youth with disabilities often still face major obstacles to independence.
In Their Time Has Come, Valerie Leiter argues that there are crucial missing links between federal disability policies and the lives of young people. Youth and their parents struggle to gather information about the resources that disability policies have created, and youth are not typically prepared to use their disability rights effectively. Her argument is based on thorough examination of federal disability policy and interviews with young people with disabilities, their parents, and rehabilitation professionals. Attention is given to the diversity of expectations, the resources available to them, and the impact of federal policy and public and private attitudes on their transition to adulthood.
To love and to work, Freud's famous definition of psychological maturity, here becomes the focussing principle for a renewed examination of the dominant themes that play themselves out in adult life. Erik Erikson, Neil Smelser, and nine leading experts in adult development consider the stages that adults pass through and the crises that adults confront as they attempt to create a meaningful life.
Themes of Work and Love in Adulthood is a book that raises many fascinating questions about adult experience. How, for example, does work affect personality? Are love and work in competition; must one be pursued at the expense of the other? Is there a point in life past which men lay less stress on mastery and turn more toward emotional fulfillment? And do women experience a shift in the opposite direction? More generally, why do adult crises fall into predictable patterns and how do adults grow as they respond to these crises? Is the recent broadening of standards for adult conduct an opportunity for personal liberation or a source of personal debilitation?
Much more than a summary of current work on adulthood, Themes of Work and Love in Adulthood is a book full of unusual rewards: Erik Erikson's sensitive reconstruction of the entanglements of love and work revealed in the correspondence between Freud and Jung; Ann Swidler's fascinating discussion of the historical transformation of the love ideal from medieval times to its contemporary form; Robert LeVine's analysis of the adult life course in an African culture. When these unique essays are added to the important position papers by major theorists of adult development—Daniel Levinson, Roger Gould, and Marjorie Fiske—the result is a book that is both useful and exciting.
In The Victorian Novel of Adulthood, Rebecca Rainof confronts the conventional deference accorded the bildungsroman as the ultimate plot model and quintessential expression of Victorian nation building. The novel of maturity, she contends, is no less important to our understanding of narrative, Victorian culture, and the possibilities of fiction.
Reading works by Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Henry James, John Henry Newman, and Virginia Woolf, Rainof exposes the little-discussed theological underpinnings of plot and situates the novel of maturity in intellectual and religious history, notably the Oxford Movement. Purgatory, a subject hotly debated in the period, becomes a guiding metaphor for midlife adventure in secular fiction. Rainof discusses theological models of gradual maturation, thus directing readers’ attention away from evolutionary theory and geology, and offers a new historical framework for understanding Victorian interest in slow and deliberate change.