Monday, March 15, 2021

Studies of the Long Game

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Children, Early Childhood, Culture, Society

Ed Hessler

Cohort studies in people are long-term research programs that collect empirical data regularly over decades. 

Barbara Maughan, writing for Nature, reviews a new book, The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life (Harvard University Press) written by four leaders in this research field: psychologists Jay Belsky, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E. Moffitt & Richie Poulton. The work on which they report was done in New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. So far children have been tracked "from birth into their teens, twenties, thirties or forties."

The review is short and includes discussion of how such studies are conducted, what has been found in studies that focus on particular development periods, the study of continuites that were found between childhood and later well being (one emphasis: life is probabalistic not deterministic), the power of such studies and how they "are now revolutionizing our understanding of the determinants of health and social capital, and, in the case of the longest-running studies, of ageing and decline."  

If you've seen and watched and or all of the Up series which the Wiki entry describes as "documentary films...that follows the lives of fourteen British children since 1964 (age 7)...has had nine episodes--one episode every seven years"(so far 56 years), you may find this book of interest. The series had a working hypothesis and you can follow the status of that hypothesis over time. It was that class structure is so strong in the United Kingdom that it acts as a determinant of a person's life. 

Here, in a film made at Spotlight on Documentary, New York Film Festival, the director of the Up series, Michael Apted, discusses this decades long project. The participants were age 63 at the time.

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