Six in-depth life histories—plus much ancillary material— drawn from the Berkeley Longitudinal Studies and illustrating Clausen's theory that choices made in youth determine the courses of our lives. In 1960, upon becoming director of the University of California's Institute of Human Development, the author inherited three separate Bay Area studies begun in the late 20's and early 30's, each study having its own purpose and duration. The 300 subjects of 'the largest long-term inquiry into human lives ever conducted' were almost all Caucasians and hardly representative of the population-at-large. Pooling data from the studies, Clausen formulated his theory of 'adolescent planful competence'—defined here as a combination of self-confidence, intellectual investment, and dependability—as a predictor of life development. But there are inherent problems in the disparate methods of the studies: The six men and women discussed in depth here were interviewed at different intervals and, because of the original study designs, not at all during their 20s and 30s—and retrospective interviews, Clausen concedes, can't substitute for timely ones. Furthermore, each of the studies used different measurements, and—since during the Depression 'wise' choices for male adolescents differed radically from those for females—sex-engendered bias abounds in the life histories. Yet all are fascinating to read, reflecting not only changing mores but also 60 years' worth of traumatic national events: the Depression, WW II, the Korean War, and—perhaps most devastating in its effects on families—the Vietnam War. The lives make up about two-fifths of this lengthy work and, except perhpas to other behavioral scientists, are much more readable than the voluminous commentaries, charts, graphs, and tables with which they're interspersed.
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