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PERSONAL HEALTH : You Can Turn Your Life Around

September 14, 1993|ELIZABETH MEHREN

An unhappy or severely disadvantaged childhood is by no means an automatic ticket to a miserable or unproductive life, a Harvard University study has found.

"Human development continues throughout adult life," said Dr. George Vaillant, a psychiatrist, whose research suggests that life cycles are basically flexible.

In particular, Vaillant's study of disadvantaged urban boys--who are now men ranging in age from 45 to 65--showed that "mature ego defenses" such as humor, suppression and altruism enabled many of his subjects to lead successful and satisfying lives.

"The brain is dynamic," Vaillant writes, "and life is dynamic."

Vaillant's conclusions are the focus of his book, "The Wisdom of the Ego: Sources of Resilience in Adult Life," which was published last spring by Harvard University Press.

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