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Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  429 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
At a time when many people around the world are living into their tenth decade, the longest longitudinal study of human development ever undertaken offers some welcome news for the new old age: our lives continue to evolve in our later years, and often become more fulfilling than before.

Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional
Hardcover, 457 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Belknap Press
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Margaret Sankey
Jan 01, 2013 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
Vaillant took the helm of the longest-running longitudinal study in American social science when he was a young researcher and the study had already been going for 30 years. Beginning in 1937, the study, funded by a retail magnate to identify key traits in management prospects (with later interest from the Army and tobacco companies), selected 268 Harvard sophomores to track, assuming that they were ideal social and academic paragons, easy to track for the study and likely to give the best of Am ...more
Suzanne Stroh
Jun 25, 2014 Suzanne Stroh rated it really liked it
Here we meet WASP men at work and play, and a little bit in love. Proving the paramount importance of love in a cold climate.

This book reports on the groundbreaking Harvard Grant study of educated American white men's lives and health, begun in 1937, that is still active today. The study tries to define optimal male health not just by gathering physical data from its 200-plus subjects, many of whom are still alive into their nineties, but also by tracking achievements (attainments) that can be m
Apr 17, 2014 Kate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-books
Phew this was a bit of a slog - really really interesting but not a fast read. Much of what George Vaillant had to say was profound and useful both personally and professionally. At times I needed to reread whole paragraphs to understand his intent as they started off saying one thing but turned into another! That said each of these paragraphs contained pearls worth taking the time to decipher. Of particular interest were the chapters on Alcoholism , Resilience and Adult maturation.

The Grant Stu
Catherine Read
Feb 18, 2013 Catherine Read rated it it was amazing
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, an ...more
Loving this book. Fascinating, fascinating ...

I was drawn to this book in particular because of the learnings on male development as outlined by Vaillant. But, aside from that, there seems to be a societal attitude that men are privileged and hence require research on their physical well-being but not so much on their long-term emotional well-being. However, increasingly, from many directions, the conclusion that physical well-being, the ability to thrive into old age physically cannot be divorc
Andrew Meyer
Jan 01, 2013 Andrew Meyer rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic book, but it really has a target audience. If you are a successful, college, male graduate who has choices about what you do and how you live, this book as interesting insight. What decisions that people made at different times in their life ended up being most important.

If you have that opportunity financially, educationally and personally, read this book. If you're not in that position, this book's probably not so interesting.
Jun 09, 2013 Sean rated it really liked it
Vaillant makes use of an extensive set of longitudinal data on Harvard men to determine what leads to enduring fulfillment and joy in their lives. Living through a warm childhood, abstaining from alcoholism and smoking, coping effectively with failure, and permitting love and attachment score high on his list of factors that contribute to beneficial outcomes. This book also depicts several useful misconceptions that the author effectively debunks and several surprising outcomes: for instance, me ...more
Oct 05, 2014 JQAdams rated it it was ok
There's a fascinating story in here somewhere -- two, really, one about the operation of the decades-long study that is the focus of the book and another about the findings of that study. But the author would in this case much rather preen about how great longitudinal studies are (which they are! But frequently not for the reasons mooted here) and about how everything goes to prove that what really matters is love and interpersonal connections. That conclusion, while plausible, would have been m ...more
Niniane Wang
Aug 28, 2014 Niniane Wang rated it it was amazing
Interesting insights based on a longitudinal study of 200+ men for 70 years! Alcoholism is hereditary and the biggest reason for marriages failing. A warm childhood is predictive of success, but a bad childhood can be overcome. Love relationships are what makes us truly happy. People grow and change throughout their lives -- even a life that was devoid until age 50 can still flower into an amazing old-age. All these backed up with scientific regressions plus anecdotal case studies!
Richard Morrow
Oct 21, 2015 Richard Morrow rated it it was amazing
a must read
Dilly Dalley
Before I had even finished reading this book I had already recommended it to a friend of mine who started me on the brain that changes itself books. If you are interested in adult growth and development you'll enjoy reading this. I spent quite a few years working with people who were trying to make their point about early childhood education, and how critical it is to future success and development. While it is an important and worthy issue, unfortunately it ended up sounding like there could be ...more
Paul Miller
In the late 30's, Harvard initiated a longitudinal study of 268 men, which amazingly continues to this day. The power of this approach is that instead of studying the human condition based NOT on snapshots of a broad population at a given time, but incredible perspective of studying the same folks over their lifetime.

What did they learn? Some stuff you'd expect - alcoholism destroys lives, a supportive childhood is better for long-term happiness than not... Probably the most interesting thing t
Oct 15, 2014 Sigrid-marianella rated it really liked it
This book opened my mind to a field of research that I had not appreciated before. I find humans an immensely fascinating animal and this book gives rise to much introspection.

The author treats both the research study itself as well as the findings from their study in this book. I can see how those who are only interested in the findings would perceive it as a bit dry, but I myself really appreciated how the challenges of longevity studies were explained. Anyone who themselves have carried out
Sam Torode
Aug 17, 2014 Sam Torode rated it it was amazing
Such a fascinating book!

"Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional health of over 200 men, starting with their undergraduate days." The surviving men are now in their 90s.

Among the many interesting findings:

* Alcohol abuse was the #1 factor in bad marriages (though rarely self-reported; it took a lot of digging for the researchers to figure this out).

* The conservative/Republican men, on average, stopped having sex at age 65, while the progressive
Mirjam Visscher
Jul 17, 2015 Mirjam Visscher rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
This book really changed the way I look at people, if possible I would give it 6 stars.
The book's about a longitudinal study. Not just for a year or 3, the study encompasses the long lives of a selected group of male Harvard students until their death. That is more than 80 years (some of the men got really old).

This book gave me a much mure nuanced view on people and elder people in particular. I started to see that someone's state of life is in a way a snapshot, and in another way a accumulated
Apr 26, 2015 Katy rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book about a longitudinal study of Harvard undergraduates from 1938 up to the present day. It's interesting to learn how their childhoods, personalities, and habits influence the trajectory of their lives. Highly recommended!
Joshua Castleman
Mar 16, 2015 Joshua Castleman rated it liked it
Unfortunately, I didn't finish this one, but I still thought it had some very interesting insight. I had it from the library and had to return it halfway through. I rechecked it out, but my momentum was dead.

The study has some very fascinating findings, but much of the book is dedicated to discussing how the study was setup and run, which was fairly dry to me (though I imagine anyone in an experiment-based field would enjoy it much more.) I just liked reading about the individual participants an
Jan 22, 2016 Janene rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
For those unfamiliar with the Harvard Grant Study (I sure was...) this is it in a very small nutshell -- in early 1940-something, a sample of Harvard graduates, all men, were selected. They were contacted intermittently, data was collected, interviews were administered over the course of their entire life. Some went to war. Some never married. Some married lots of times. Some were alcoholics. Some were workaholics. LOTS of data gleaned -- all of it studied and analyzed as they went.

The man who w
Joy H.
Added 4/2/13.
Found while surfing the Web. Published in 2012.

"At a time when many people around the world are living into their tenth decade, the longest longitudinal study of human development ever undertaken offers some welcome news for the new old age: our lives continue to evolve in our later years, and often become more fulfilling than before.

Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional health of o
Dec 26, 2012 Al rated it liked it
Triumphs of Experience, like its predecessor Aging Well, is based on the author's lengthy experience administering and analyzing the results of the Grant Study of some 268 Harvard students/graduates. The study, commenced in 1938 and continues today even as the number of survivors decreases. Dr. Vaillant knows his territory, and uses his knowledge to draw certain conclusions about aging and to refute other commonly-held beliefs on the same subject. There are numerous tables and correlations prov ...more
Ivan Ramirez
Sep 24, 2014 Ivan Ramirez rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book describing the longest study performed in history. More than 75 years of questionaries, health information, family information, etc.
The book describes the study itself, the criteria taken in consideration for the results and (here's my favorite part) several cases of men and how they went through life from childhood/adolescence to adulthood backed with a lot of data and psychological information and how they managed to change/mature over the years.
Feb 03, 2014 Bridget rated it liked it
Really interesting book/study, but sometimes hard to read because of the academic language and references I'm not familiar with. There were case studies strewn throughout that were fascinating. Some of my favorite gleanings:

1. In regard to the military's question about how to breed good officiers: "We don't breed good officers; we don't even build them on the playing fields of Eton; we raise them in loving homes." (p. 43)

2. With regard to positive mental health and adaptive coping; "As in the in
Aug 30, 2014 Candice rated it really liked it
The Harvard Grant Study is a longitudinal study of adult development that started in 1938. In my opinion, the most interesting finding of the study was that alcoholism is the cause, not the result of unhappy marriages. I never held the opposite position, but I was happy to find it evidenced in such a distinguished study.

I do not read many psychological studies so I found this book to be rather dry. I did, however, really enjoy the study. I appreciate the detail, but would much rather have just
William Peregoy
Sep 07, 2015 William Peregoy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Easily one of the most influential and informative books I've ever read on what to expect, what to focus on, and how to get the most out of life - as a man in America.

This is longest study ever conducted, following 800+ men for over 60 years and really delves in and talks about adult development late into life, and what qualities the most "successful" men had in their lives, and what to avoid.
Oct 18, 2014 Lynn rated it it was amazing
Though not a light read, I found it well worth it. It has a lot of information that would be useful for parents (and grandparents) in raising children and for those who are searching for meaning and connection in their own lives. The book has insightful, positive messages about life and what is really important.
Dan McGrath
Dec 29, 2013 Dan McGrath rated it it was amazing
Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study
By George Vaillant

Just finished this very extensive and enjoyable summary of the Harvard Grant (Longitudinal) Study of 200 graduates throughout their lives. George Vaillant is a wonderful writer: I loved the actual case studies/interviews with participants illustrating various life histories and outcomes. Of course I found out a lot about myself in reading these. The conclusions are interesting, illuminating and encouraging in that we do
Mar 15, 2016 Ben rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
This book has and will continue to change my life. I believe that is the most impactful review any book can have. But by being more self aware of my defenses and coping mechanisms, as well as the defenses and coping mechanisms of friends, coworkers, family, etc, I can be more empathetic and love more. Too often I've blanket dismissed people based on first impressions, their personality on the internet or some other "annoying" reason. But the idea is to grow personally, right?

Anything I say about
Jun 22, 2015 Derek rated it it was amazing
Fascinating study of Harvard graduates of the classes of '38, '39, and '40 and the rest of their lives. Biggest takeaway is that the source of the good life, as defined by the Grant Study, is relationship with others.
For me, it was a good preparation for working on a book (with Professor Nussbaum) about aging. It is full of surprise about how lives can end up so far from where they were in their supposed primes. It is also a fascinating example of the changing norms in social science research, as the study began in the 1930s and continues on. —Saul Levmore
Allene Kind
Apr 14, 2016 Allene Kind rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing Look at a Fascinating Study

The book followed 268 Harvard sophomores over their lives. Unique conclusions around the importance of love, relationships, coping and alcohol use.
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George Eman Vaillant, M.D., born 1934, is an American psychiatrist and Professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of Research for the Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Vaillant has spent his research career charting adult development and the recovery process of schizophrenia, heroin addiction, alcoholism, and personality disorder. Through 2003, he spent 30 years as Dire
More about George E. Vaillant...

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“Happiness is love. Full stop.” 3 likes
“As we’ve gone along, I’ve pointed out that a warm childhood relationship with his mother—not maternal education—was significantly related to a man’s verbal test scores, to high salary, to class rank at Harvard, and to military rank at the end of World War II. At the men’s twenty-fifth reunion, it looked, to my surprise, as though the quality of a man’s relationship with his mother had little effect on overall midlife adjustment. However, forty-five years later, to my surprise again, the data suggested that there was a significant positive correlation between the quality of one’s maternal relationship and the absence of cognitive decline. At age ninety, 33 percent of the men with poor maternal relationships, and only 13 percent of men with warm relationships, suffered from dementia.” 1 likes
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