(Feb. 18, 2013) This is such an important work. One of the only longitudinal studies of its kind, this follows a cohort of Harvard men from the ages of 19 to over 90 in a study that spans over 75 years. It is enlightening in so many ways and the style of the author (and study researcher) George Vaillant is so engaging to read. He is about 15 years younger than the study subjects and as they grew and matured, so did he. He came to his own realizations about what adult development means in very concrete terms, and what it takes to flourish throughout one’s life.
There were some surprises and unexpected twists and turns along the way. There is so much data that was collected over the years that has proven useful in this type of prospective study. The research tools and methodology have developed and shifted over the years and will continue to do so. Technology has enabled more sophisticated tabulation of all this data than what the study was able to do when they started back in 1938.
Vaillant believes that further technology innovation will also shed even greater light on this type of lifetime study. They have already begun to use neuroimaging and fMRI’s. As it turns out, one of unintended consequences of the constant struggle for funding of the research study was receipt of a grant to study Alcohol use. The book represents the most comprehensive study of alcoholism ever undertaken and it’s conclusions are startling.