Adaptation to Life

Adaptation to Life

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George Vaillant discusses these and other questions in terms of a clearly defined scheme of "adaptive mechanisms" that are rated mature, neurotic, immature, or psychotic, and illustrates, with case histories, each method of more

Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 139.7 x 210.82 x 25.4mm | 453.59g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 7 tables and 4 figures
  • 0674004140
  • 9780674004146
  • 124,341

Review Text

How men adapt to life: the conclusions of an ambitious research project initiated nearly 40 years ago. Limited to bright, white, promising college men - a pilot population - in the late Thirties and early Forties, the Grant Study reconstructed childhoods via subject and parent interviews, observed the young men in college, and followed them up at regular intervals for 30 years. Most subjects were conscientious about maintaining contact and honest - eventually - about private transactions. Vaillant, a Harvard psychiatrist and current director of the Study, interviewed extensively, streamlined the data, and now has shaped the findings for a general, educated readership. Indebted to both Freuds (father and daughter) and to Erikson for his psychiatric orientation, he proceeds cautiously and is assiduous in illuminating his own biases. The men themselves emerge not as "fugitives from a script by Tennessee Williams" (a frequent case history complaint) but as scrupulously delineated personalities exhibiting enormously variable adaptive behaviors - the ego mechanisms of defense, here calibrated in a maturational scheme. Vaillant maintains, as others have, that these adaptive techniques (e.g. sublimation, hypochondriasis, intellectualization) are as significant in determining the course of a man's life as established factors like heredity, environmental influences, and psychiatric intervention. For example, he demonstrates how those from barren childhoods used immature defense mechanisms (fantasy, projection) and had lifelong problems sustaining intimate relationships while those from warm, stimulating homes evolved mature mechanisms (suppression, humor) and enjoyed deep friendships and (conventional) success as adults. However, manifestations of growth appear throughout adult life - not the "high drama" of Passages but those gradual modifications that reflect pyramiding vitality and strengths. Vaillant writes fluently and persuasively, anticipating objections and conferring meaning on all those little details - chest pain timing, verbal slips, open buttons - that always discomfit the skeptics. Despite some inherent conceptual limitations and the skewed population, a penetrating and revealing work. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

* Preface, 1995 * Cast of Protagonists * Part 1: The Study of Mental Health: Methods and Illustrations * Introduction *1. Mental Health *2. The Men of the Grant Study *3. How They Were Studied *4. Health Redefined--The Joyful Expression of Sex and of Anger * Part 2: Basic Styles of Adaptation *5. Adaptive Ego Mechanisms--A Hierarchy *6. Sublimation *7. Suppression, Anticipation, Altruism, and Humor *8. The Neurotic Defenses *9. The Immature Defenses * Part 3: Developmental Consequences of Adaptation *10. The Adult Life Cycle--In One Culture *11. Paths into Health *12. Successful Adjustment *13. The Child Is Father to the Man *14. Friends, Wives, and Children * Part 4: Conclusions *15. The Maturing Ego *16. What Is Mental Health--A Reprise *17. A Summary * References Cited * Appendix A: A Glossary of Defenses * Appendix B: The Interview Schedule * Appendix C: The Rating Scalesshow more

About George E. Vaillant

George E. Vaillant is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical more