Work hard in school, graduate a top college, establish a high-paying professional career, enjoy the long-lasting reward of happiness. This is the American Dream—and yet basic questions at the heart of this competitive journey remain unanswered. Does competitive success, even rarified entry into the Ivy League and the top one percent of earners in America, deliver on its promise? Does realizing the American Dream deliver a good life? In Redefining Success in America, psychologist and human development scholar Michael Kaufman develops a fundamentally new understanding of how elite undergraduate educations and careers play out in lives, and of what shapes happiness among the prizewinners in America. In so doing, he exposes the myth at the heart of the American Dream.
Returning to the legendary Harvard Student Study of undergraduates from the 1960s and interviewing participants almost fifty years later, Kaufman shows that formative experiences in family, school, and community largely shape a future adult’s worldview and well-being by late adolescence, and that fundamental change in adulthood, when it occurs, is shaped by adult family experiences, not by ever greater competitive success. Published research on general samples shows that these patterns, and the book’s findings generally, are broadly applicable to demographically varied populations in the United States.
Leveraging biography-length clinical interviews and quantitative evidence unmatched even by earlier landmark studies of human development, Redefining Success in America redefines the conversation about the nature and origins of happiness, and about how adults develop. This longitudinal study pioneers a new paradigm in happiness research, developmental science, and personality psychology that will appeal to scholars and students in the social sciences, psychotherapy professionals, and serious readers navigating the competitive journey.
1 The Study of Success and Happiness
Part 1 Patterns in Lives
2 Brightness and Darkness
3 The Varieties of Experience
Part 2 Observations and Longitudinal Models
4 The Qualitative Assessment of Well-Being: An Innovation in Happiness Research
5 The Stability Model
6 Stability Tested Quantitatively
7 The Change Model
8 Beyond Success: The Relationship between Career and Happiness
Part 3 Comparison and Summary
9 A Conventional Measure of Happiness: A Reexamination
10 A Paradigm for Understanding Adult Life
11 The Forces Shaping Our Well-Being
Appendix 1: Primary Psychobiographical Sketches
Appendix 2: Sample Selection and Participation
Appendix 3: Roster of Interviews
Appendix 4: Study’s Methods of Analysis
Appendix 5: Variables and Measures
Appendix 6: Aspects of Remembered Early Life Appearing in Interviews
Appendix 7: The Creation of Remembered Early Life Affect Scale
About the Author:
Michael Kaufman is an interdisciplinary psychologist who has been director of the Harvard Student Study for the past fifteen years at the University of Chicago in the Department of Comparative Human Development and the Center on Aging. Currently a Fulbright Scholar in Tanzania carrying out cross-cultural research in human development, he is visiting professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Tumaini University Makumira as well as a senior research scientist at the Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute.