Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226550152 Published May 2019
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226550015 Published May 2019
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Redefining Success in America

A New Theory of Happiness and Human Development

Michael Kaufman

Redefining Success in America
See an online appendix for the book.

Michael Kaufman

304 pages | 18 line drawings, 32 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2018
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226550152 Published May 2019
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226550015 Published May 2019
E-book $10.00 to $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226550299 Published June 2019
Work hard in school, graduate from 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

Review Quotes
C. J. Jones, California State University, Fresno | Choice
"Kaufman’s book is timely, given the current nationwide college cheating scandal, and many American parents’ apparent obsession with elite colleges. Is it true that graduating from a highly selective, name-brand college guarantees a happy and successful life? Kaufman explores this question using data from a relatively small sample of (presumably all white) men who attended Harvard in the early 1960s, delving into their college life experiences via archival interview transcripts, then tracking down and interviewing those same men decades later when they were nearly sixty years old. Creating a qualitatively rich measure of happiness—the 'Scale of Intrapsychic Brightness and Darkness' (bright: secure, invested in others, possessing a sense of play and spirituality, hopeful; dark: on guard and self-protective, secluded, struggling, pessimistic)—Kaufman explores long-term stability and change in happiness and predictors of happiness, including early family experiences, career success, and important adult relationships. Illustrated with detailed case examples and supplemented by more quantitative survey results from a larger group of Harvard men, results indicate four-year immersion in arguably the most elite of undergraduate colleges is, in fact, no guarantee of 'success in America.' . . . Highly recommended."
Harvard Magazine
"The fifty-fifth reunion . . . heard a presentation on a new book, Redefining Success in America, by Michael B. Kaufman, MBA ’94, now a psychologist. He exhumed records from the legendary Harvard Student Study, based on members of the classes of 1960 and 1961—including Stanley King’s in-depth interviews with 49 young men—and, during the past fifteen years, followed up with many of them. His resulting theory of happiness and human development looks beyond the pursuit of status and wealth to the factors that determine a fulfilling life: mutually beneficial relationships; awareness and pursuit of one’s own goals; and capacity to deal with serious setbacks. The class members’ lived experience perhaps suggested as much, but Kaufman’s talk was the first formal outreach by researchers to share the findings with the subjects who made it possible."
Ed Diener, coauthor of "Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth"
“A must-read for anyone who wants to deeply understand psychological well-being.”
James W. Anderson, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
“Extraordinary, almost unbelievable, that Kaufman has been able to track down and study in depth subjects who were first investigated decades ago. Using his rare, longitudinal data, he develops a sophisticated understanding of happiness and life satisfaction. He shows why it is that financial success is not as central as it is often thought to be. Our culture, he argues convincingly, has sold to the younger generation a false promise that attending a prestigious college and attaining wealth is ‘a ticket to the good life.’ Redefining Success in America does just what the title promises; it provides an original and creative answer to the question: ‘What provides fulfillment?’”
Michael Shanahan, director of the Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development, University of Zurich
“A superb book, unique for its use of grounded theory in the study of life-span patterns and in its formulation of a new life-span theory of happiness. In these ways, Redefining Success in America makes fundamental contributions. The equal emphasis on stability and change is very rare and admirable in developmental science. . . . As a life-course sociologist, I enjoyed this book greatly.”
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