25th Anniversary Edition of Children of the Great Depression, by Glen H. Elder, Jr., Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999. ISBN: 0813333423

Originally published in 1974, Children of the Great Depression presented the first longitudinal study of a Depression cohort. This 25th anniversary edition of the much acclaimed work includes a new chapter by the author which explores how World War II and the Korean War changed the lives of these California youth who were born in 1920-21 and those of a younger birth cohort (1928-29). The chapter also reviews the project's contributions to theory and method in the study of lives.

The book is based on data from the Oakland Growth and Berkeley Guidance Studies of the Institute for Human Development at the University of California - Berkeley

Foreword - 1998 by Urie Bronfenbrenner

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 effects of these experiences were not simply additive; they reinforced each other. For example, military service "frequently provided new options for marriage and advanced education. Mobilization into the armed forces exposed men to potential mates and opened up opportunities for skill training and higher education....Related to each of these developmental experiences is the educational opportunity offered by the GI Bill of Rights....For example, nearly half of the California veterans reported having completed an educational degree on the GI Bill" (pp. 17-18). Also, the benefits were especially effective where they could make the biggest difference; for instance, "for veterans with a delinquent past who had entered the service at a young age. All of these experiences enhanced occupational job status, job stability, and economic well-being, independent of childhood differences and socioeconomic origins up to the middle years" (p. 22). As Elder himself said, "We don't need wars to open up such opportunities."

His repeated references to the GI Bill culminate in both a warning and a call to action for our times: "But not even great talent and industry can ensure life success over adversity without opportunity" (p. 26).

1998 Foreword by Urie Bronfenbrenner

I. Crisis and Adaptation: An Introduction

  1. The Depression Experience
        The Research Problem and Approach
        Socioeconomic Conditions in Oakland and the Nation
        Researching the Past: A Cautionary Note

  2. Adaptations to Economic Deprivation
        Deprivation and Adaptations in the Family
         Status Change in Personality and Achievement
        Adaptive Potential and Personality

II. Coming of Age in the Depression

  3. Economic Deprivation and Family Status
        Economic Deprivation and Father's Worklife
        Social Factors in Economic Change
        Family Adaptations in Economic Maintenance
        Some Effects of Status Loss on Parents Review

  4. Children in the Household Economy
        Children's Economic and Domestic Roles
        Children's Tasks as a Developmental Experience
        The Downward Extension of Adult Experience

  5. Family Relations
        Economic Deprivation and Marital Power
        Parents as Significant Others
        Views of Family and Parents from Adulthood
        Economic Change in Family Experience: A Summary View

  6. Status Change and Personality
        Children's Image of Self and Others
        Self-Orientations and Social Status
        Social Status and Striving
        Social Change and the Self: A Concluding Note
III. The Adult Years

  7. Earning a Living: Adult Lives of the Oakland Men
        Adult Status in the Life Course of the Oakland Cohort
        Vocational Development in Worklife Experience
        Occupational Attainment in the Life Course
        Men's Values: A Legacy of the Depression?
        A Resumé

  8. Leading a Contingent Life: Adult Lives of the Oakland Women
        Contingencies in a Woman's Life
        Events and Patterns in the Life Course
        Economic Deprivation in the Life Course
        "A Woman's Place Is in the Home"
        The Depression Experience in Women's Roles

  9. Personality in Adult Experience
        Childhood Deprivation in Adult Health
        Parenthood as Problem Situation and Growth Experience
        Reviewing the Past
        Perspectives on Politics and the Future

IV. The Depression Experience in Life Patterns

  10. Children of the Great Depression
        The Approach and Other Options
        Depression Experiences in Personality and the Life Course
        Central Themes from the Depression Experience

V. Beyond "Children of the Great Depression"

  11. Beyond "Children of the Great Depression"
        Early Thinking and Paradigmatic Principles
        The Emergence of life Course Theory
        Turning Lives Around

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