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on 5 August 2013
The Harvard Grant study is unique: a group of very special (in my country we call them people who are born with a gold spoon in their mouth) men who have been followed intensively from their university studies (with lots of backgrounds material) to the present, more than 70 years. Most of them are still alive and well. You get fascinating case studies, revelations (somebody has been able to hide his horrible mother relationship until old age) and also, interestingly, how fashions change in psychology. Everything from cranial measurements to life stories has been tried with these guys. All possible theories have been proved wrong.
The fact is that we should have lots more such studies. Almost every study would be worth while when repeated sufficiently often.
But we have this one, and it is quite interesting!
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on 29 December 2015
Extremely interesting and unique study.
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on 8 February 2016
Magnificently written, with beautiful, very touching stories, and fascinating scientific data. There are extraordinary revelations of what most contributes to high achievement in life, and to greater satisfaction in later life - often vindicating what people in psychoanalytic circles have been asserting for decades. Vaillant writes with great sensitivity and self-reflection about his own biases and self-discoveries. The Grant study is fascinating for what it reflects about the changing nature of leadership theory in the C20th (it began in 1938 as a study of how body shape might predict future accomplishment!), and for the ways in which the scientists sought to measure and test new theories, and establish their 'decathlon framework' for success in life. It includes great sections on the Erikson's maturation stages, and unconscious defences as modes of resilience. I can't recommend it highly enough!
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on 16 November 2014
This is a technical book based on extensive use of statistical data. However, it is also a fascinating description of how outcomes in long lives are affected by a multitude of factors. A remarkable book.
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on 10 May 2016
In the opening chapter of this book, the author makes a spirited case for why longitudinal prospective studies ("LPS") like the Harvard Grant Study are far superior to any other form of study. Sadly, the rest of the book shows him to be wrong, by illustrating the key shortcomings of an LPS:

(i) Cohort selection: Almost entirely limited to white American men. Saying that this was precisely the point of the study back then does not absolve the study of its limited relevance.
(ii) Data collection: Variable selection limited to those things which the researchers then thought important. Useless variables can be disproved, so that's fine. However, there is no remedy for data that was never collected at the outset (e.g. detailed interpersonal relationship data).
(iii) Data analysis: Methodologies were very rough in the past -- to then use this as the basis for sophisticated, modern statistical analysis seems disingenuous.

As the Grant Study's struggles with funding might indicate, the fact is that social science research -- and funding -- reflects the concerns of its time, and the juggernaut of an LPS lacks the ability to change course easily -- if at all -- in response to these concerns. It is clear that the Harvard Grant Study remains of highly limited use to the wider population, and should not pretend otherwise. While perhaps an unfortunate conclusion to the decades of effort that have gone into it, a study of mortal man cannot itself hope for immortality.
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on 2 December 2012
I was prompted to buy this book following an interview with George on Radio 4. The author uses individual stories to illustrate a point, the book would have been easier for me to read if there were more of these. This book contains a lot of appendices and tables that are difficult to view clearly on the kindle. Would have been better to buy the hard copy.
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