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The Origins of You

How Childhood Shapes Later Life

Jay Belsky, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E. Moffitt, Richie Poulton

ISBN 9780674983458

Publication date: 08/11/2020

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A Marginal Revolution Book of the Year

After tracking the lives of thousands of people from birth to midlife, four of the world’s preeminent psychologists reveal what they have learned about how humans develop.

Does temperament in childhood predict adult personality? What role do parents play in shaping how a child matures? Is day care bad—or good—for children? Does adolescent delinquency forecast a life of crime? Do genes influence success in life? Is health in adulthood shaped by childhood experiences? In search of answers to these and similar questions, four leading psychologists have spent their careers studying thousands of people, observing them as they’ve grown up and grown older. The result is unprecedented insight into what makes each of us who we are.

In The Origins of You, Jay Belsky, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie Moffitt, and Richie Poulton share what they have learned about childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, about genes and parenting, and about vulnerability, resilience, and success. The evidence shows that human development is not subject to ironclad laws but instead is a matter of possibilities and probabilities—multiple forces that together determine the direction a life will take. A child’s early years do predict who they will become later in life, but they do so imperfectly. For example, genes and troubled families both play a role in violent male behavior, and, though health and heredity sometimes go hand in hand, childhood adversity and severe bullying in adolescence can affect even physical well-being in midlife.

Painstaking and revelatory, the discoveries in The Origins of You promise to help schools, parents, and all people foster well-being and ameliorate or prevent developmental problems.

Praise

  • This book’s authors, having plumbed their data in depth, deliver a flood of insights around the book’s central question: To what degree do our childhood personalities and behaviors predict our adult selves?

    —John Donvan, Wall Street Journal

Authors

  • Jay Belsky is the Robert M. and Natalie Reid Dorn Professor of Human Development at the University of California, Davis. He was a founding investigator of the NIH Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development in the United States and the National Evaluation of Sure Start in the United Kingdom. He received the Urie Bronfenbrenner Award from the American Psychological Association.
  • Avshalom Caspi is the Edward M. Arnett Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University and Professor of Personality Development at King’s College London. He is a recipient of the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Psychology.
  • Terrie E. Moffitt is the Nannerl O. Keohane University Professor at Duke University and Professor of Social Behaviour and Development at King’s College London. She has received a host of honors, including the 2022 Grawemeyer Award in Psychology and the Stockholm Prize in Criminology, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.
  • Richie Poulton is Professor of Psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand, where he serves as codirector of the National Centre for Lifecourse Research. An elected fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, he received the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Science Prize for the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.

Book Details

  • 432 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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