Monday, January 05, 2015

Vaillant Study

Dr. Joy Bliss over at Maggie's linked to this article over at The Art of Manliness about George Vaillant's longitudinal study of Harvard men, their success and happiness. I had heard about this study years ago, and caught references to it once in awhile ever since. Vaillant was top of his field in psychiatry, especially writing about personality development and personality disorders.

An excellent article, which you will find heartwarming and validating in many ways.  It does have one "small" problem, however. Its results are as likely to be correlations, not causations, of success and happiness.  In light of the last two decades of genetic research, it is actually much more than likely to be about result than cause. It is repeatedly stressed in the mythmaking that the participants in the study all had Harvard educations, as if that were some sort of factor that held many variables constant.

Warm, loving people pass on warm, loving genes to their children, and they live together in more harmony than those who don't start with that. People are close to one sibling because they were that sort of person from the start, not because their parents encouraged that. We want the other story to be true.  I certainly hope that environment is at least partly the cause of children's happiness.  We just don't seem to have the abundance of evidence for that we hoped for.


Sam L. said...

Hugh, you silver-tongued devil! You dissin' AVI, or Vaillant?

Texan99 said...

Whoever's handy, would be my guess, though the evidence for a fixation on AVI is stronger than for one on Vaillant.