Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Adaptation to Life” as Want to Read:
Adaptation to Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Adaptation to Life

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  122 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published August 11th 1998 by Harvard University Press (first published 1977)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Adaptation to Life, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Adaptation to Life

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is a like a wide-lens biography. There are dozens of men we learn about and we see them live and change over decades. With the breadth of characters it was not hard to see myself in many of them and begin to wonder about the influences that were shaping me, right here, in real time. It was deeply confronting to stare this in the face. Without ever giving any direct life advice, this book was the best of self-help books because it lets you to take from it what particular wisdom you need ...more
Jan 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Enjoyed the book. Wish he provided a summary of the findings at the end of each chapter. Interesting regardless of the shortfall..
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brain-and-mind
Adaptation to life
Little Brown USA ISBN 031689520-2
Following 268 of the healthiest college students through all their lives.
Study conceived in 1937.
The author joined the staff in 1967.
Part I the study of mental health Introduction
1937 Philanthropist William T. Grant.
Previous study Frank Barron.
Conclusion -> problems exist always. The difference is how do we react to them.
The hypothesis was that health had a lot to do with success.
Ego mechanisms = keep affects, restore emotional balan
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Re-read after 32 years. Did not duplicate the sense of revelation I had reading it at the age of 24, but that’s a measure of how deep the imprint was left.
Alex Ball
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Adaptation to Life provides an insightful look into the maturing ego defenses of a group of well-adjusted young men studied from the early 20th century through their later years ending in 1977. Vaillant, a psychologist, expands on Freud's (Anna's and Sigmund's) and Erikson's development theories, defining and illustrating such mechanisms as neurotic denial, suppression and altruism and how these mechanisms, or adaptive styles, impact the objective qualities of the men's adult lives.

Vaillant, wri
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
A longitudinal study of adults, of what constitutes mental health. Fascinating, terrifying, freeing, what other adjectives can I throw at it? I am now slightly more apprehensive of middle age, when apparently both my children and I will be going through adolescence at the same time. But there is also incredible relief for a parent when he claims that single traumatic events are unlikely to result in poor development. As long as I am not subjecting them to ongoing trauma for decades, my children ...more
Alexei G
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
When I first opened the book and read the first couple of chapters, I was initially stunned by the parochial narrow-mindedness of the notions and judgements the author passes upon his subjects. I was about to skim the rest of the book and was already gearing myself up to writing a scathing review.
And yet. As I read further and further on, I realised that the book is indeed very valuable. The simple access to a very unique and undervalued study gave the man insight and material to work with few o
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Two quotes from the Conclusion sum up this book quite well:

"Neither a sextant nor a celestial map can predict where we should go; but both are invaluable in letting us identify where we are."

"Contrary to popular belief, lucky at work means lucky in love; lack of overt emotional distress does not lead to headache and high blood pressure but to robust physical health; and those who pay their internist the most visits are also most likely to visit psychiatrists. Inner happiness, external play, obje
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
In this book George Vaillant analyzes adaptation techniques (aka coping strategies aka defense mechanisms) using the lives of men in the Grant Study (the Grant Study undertook the task of profiling 250+ male college graduates in the United States from 1940 to the end of their lives; this book was written in the 1970s, when the men were in their fifties). He covers 14 adaptation techniques, from altruism and sublimation to delusional projection and denial. The really fascinating aspect of this bo ...more
Jim Angstadt
Sep 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: dnf
This is a topic that should be a some concern to all of us. How do we adapt to the curve-balls that life throws up? What are the important factors that point to successful adaptation? Or un-successful adaptation?

The author has a very organized approach to evaluation of a longitudinal study of some young men.

For me, the author's approach seems scientific and realistic. And yet, that was not my take-away learning.

My bottom-line was that we are all thrown curve-balls. The difference is our adaptabi
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
A book adhering to outdated Freudian analysis, where you can feel how the author manipulates /misrepresents characters in order to fit his overarching theme - positive coping mechanisms (defined rigidly) trump bad ones. Okay, after 50 pages we already get the idea, but the whole book repeats it over and over again, using caricatures, so one-dimensional it is like reading a horrible teen novel.
The idea is worth knowing, an excerpt/ review is all you need. With the advent of more scientific psycho
Sep 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
LIFE-CHANGING. I beg you to read it! Rarely has a book affected my view of the human condition so profoundly, and never so precisely. It approaches perfection; not for universality or omniscience, but because it shines within the acknowledged limits of the study. Erudition and grace transform what could have been a dull academic text into something approaching a novel. I felt both highly vulnerable and hopeful while reading it, and I doubt anyone could finish without becoming a more complete per ...more
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. I was more interested in immature and mature adaptation styles than neurotic so skimmed through a few sections. Reading about the men in the study, with the deft use of contrast and comparison, was enlightening. The conclusions resonated and are held up but what we have since learned about mental health, imho. Nothing mind-blowing here except for the depth and breadth of the study, which is remarkable.
Kristie Castellini
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The detailed history behind my favorite article in years: What Makes Us Happy? It's a 72-year longitudinal study of Harvard grads and the long-term drivers for health & happiness.
This book is a skimmer but great detail behind the article if you get as interested in it as I did.
Andrew Pace
Dec 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The best non fiction book I have ever read. Covers key events in the lives of dozens of intelligent, successful Harvard graduates. Describes the ways even the best of them manage to make themselves miserable, or how those who started with so little build rich, fulfilling lives.
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A genius longitudinal study that created a very effective way at viewing defenses. The taxonomy of defenses is fascinating. I have to go look at this again.
Adrian Herbez
Dec 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found this to be fascinating- great take on what really matters in life, and what contributes to success and happiness.
Catherine Woodman
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Interim analysis of a very interesting longitudinal study
Meaghan Whalen
rated it it was amazing
Mar 10, 2013
Corley Higgins
rated it it was amazing
Jan 12, 2011
rated it it was amazing
Aug 31, 2013
rated it really liked it
Jul 03, 2010
rated it it was amazing
Sep 04, 2012
rated it it was ok
Jul 30, 2014
rated it liked it
Jun 25, 2012
Mugizi Rwebangira
rated it really liked it
Apr 16, 2016
rated it really liked it
Jan 18, 2018
rated it it was amazing
Apr 27, 2015
Jim D'Ambrosia
rated it liked it
Dec 22, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Enlightening 1 4 Oct 29, 2009 08:37PM  
  • Anger
  • The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature
  • Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection
  • Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body and Brain
  • Medication Madness: True Stories of Mayhem, Murder & Suicide Caused by Psychiatric Drugs
  • Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History
  • Representative Men: Seven Lectures
  • A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development
  • Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst
  • Healing Words
  • The Roots of Coincidence
  • Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (The Writings of Anna Freud, Vol 2)
  • Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind
  • Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past
  • The Hidden Persuaders
  • A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science & Spirituality
  • Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty
  • Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality
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

Nonfiction Deals

  • Rumi: The Big Red Book: The Great Masterpiece Celebrating Mystical Love and Friendship
    $10.74 $1.99
  • I Will Teach You To Be Rich
    $13.95 $1.99
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    $10.99 $2.99
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
    $11.74 $2.99
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are
    $9.99 $2.99
  • I'm Just a Person
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout
    $9.24 $1.99
  • The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity & the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
    $9.74 $2.99
  • The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New
    $8.24 $1.99
  • The Public Library: A Photographic Essay
    $27.99 $4.99
  • The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Murphy's Boy
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace
    $14.95 $1.99
  • The Heart of Meditation: Discovering Innermost Awareness
    $12.99 $1.99
  • My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir
    $9.49 $1.99
  • The Essential Rumi
    $10.24 $1.99
  • Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
    $10.74 $2.99
  • How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece
    $8.24 $1.99
  • How to Travel with a Salmon & Other Essays (A Harvest Book)
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914
    $6.99 $2.99
  • No Limits: Blow the CAP Off Your Capacity
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships
    $10.49 $2.99
  • Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Castles of Steel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life
    $9.74 $1.99
  • AWOL on the Appalachian Trail
    $3.99 $1.99
“Mentally healthy individuals should be in touch with their own identity and their own feelings; they should be oriented toward the future and over time they should be fruitfully invested in life. Their psyches should be integrated and provide them a resistance to stress. They should possess autonomy and recognize what suits their needs; they should perceive reality without distortion and yet possess empathy. They should be masters of their environment - able to work, to love, and to play, and to be efficient in problem-solving.” 4 likes
“The reliable presence of people who love us facilitates our perception and toleration of painful reality and enriches our lives.” 3 likes
More quotes…