cover image The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life

The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life

Jay Belsky et al. Harvard Univ., $35 (400p) ISBN 978-0-674-98345-8

A group of psychologists explore fundamental questions about human development, while also introducing a lesser-known research approach, in this cogent work. Using landmark studies that tracked large groups of people from birth—one, ongoing since 1970, involving about 1,000 New Zealanders—they explore topics such as how difficult childhoods impact people later in life and whether childhood ADHD carries through into adulthood. The introduction explains that, by “prospectively” following study subjects through time, significant childhood experiences can be studied close to when they actually occur, instead of via later, and potentially inaccurate, subject interviews. This careful explanation of methodology lends more credence to the book’s conclusions, such as that “temperament at age three predicted how some children functioned much later in life.” The authors also found that, even if children with ADHD could not be clinically diagnosed later in life, their behavior continued to exhibit its hyperactivity and the difficulty with focus characteristic of the disorder. Most generally, and optimistically, they stress throughout that the “factors and forces that undermine human development,” such as bullying and chaotic home lives, “can be prevented from working their black magic” by other, more positive factors, such as secure attachment during infancy and supportive peer groups. This thought-provoking volume should fascinate psychology students. (Aug.)