Children of the Great Depression: Social Change in Life Experience

Children of the Great Depression: Social Change in Life Experience

Children of the Great Depression: Social Change in Life Experience

Children of the Great Depression: Social Change in Life Experience

Synopsis

First published in 1974, this study follows 167 individuals born in 1920-1921 from their school days in Oakland, California, to the 1960s.

Excerpt

In this volume, Glen Elder gives us two classics in one. He does so by bringing together in one place two closely related bodies of his work, widely separated in their original date of publication, but highly relevant today both for advancing developmental research and for addressing the critical problems that confront American society at this point in our history. In his earlier work Children of the Great Depression, republished here after a quarter of a century, Elder challenged the then-prevailing, age- and stage-focused developmental theories and research designs by demonstrating, with compelling data, the profound effects of historical change on human development not only in the formative years but throughout the life course. That challenge still applies.

But Glen Elder has moved on. In a provocative last chapter based on analyses of successive follow-up studies conducted since the publication of his 1974 volume, Elder reports further evidence of a turnaround in developmentally disruptive trends: "To an unexpected degree, these children of the Great Depression followed a trajectory of resilience into the middle years of life. They were doing better than expected from the perspective of their social origins" (pp. 15-16). Among the subsequent life-course experiences identified as contributing most to this emergence of resilience and coping behavior were the following: taking advantage of newly created opportunities for obtaining higher education; marriage as a source of critical support during the young adult years; and, especially, service in the military. The beneficial . . .

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