Skip to main content


Elder, Glen H., Jr.; Pavalko, Eliza K.; & Hastings, Thomas J. (1991). Talent, History, and the Fulfillment of Promise. Psychiatry, 54, 251-267.


Life course studies are a flourishing enterprise across the social sciences and humanities, particularly since the 1960s, but the historical roots of this work extend back at least to the turn of the century (Elder 1985; Sorensen et al. 1986). The new era is distinguished by a rapidly growing number of longitudinal samples as well as by innovative techniques for collecting and analyzing life histories. Most distinctive of the new work is its consciousness of the interplay between lives and times. To understand life trajectories one must consider the social changes underway. The events, continuities, and transformations of a changing world shape the pathways of aging. This research explores the long-term consequences of one era of social change in particular (World War II and the preceding decade of hard times) for the life experiences and career achievements of men who lived through that period. Using the data archives of the oldest longitudinal study still active in the United States (Terman 1925), we assess the career achievements of the men (born 1904-1917) in relation to cohort membership, social origins, and wartime mobilization. Through different opportunities, resources, and support, the life stage of these men in the 1930s and 40s shaped the distinctive impact of historical circumstances on their accomplishments. All of the men are members of the Stanford-Terman study, which began in 1922 with more than 800 males and has continued across 11 additional data waves up to 1986.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title



Elder, Glen H., Jr.
Pavalko, Eliza K.
Hastings, Thomas J.