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Redefining Success in AmericaA New Theory of Happiness and Human Development$
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Michael Kaufman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226550015

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226550299.001.0001

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Beyond Success: The Relationship between Career and Happiness

Beyond Success: The Relationship between Career and Happiness

(p.156) Chapter 8 Beyond Success: The Relationship between Career and Happiness
Redefining Success in America

Michael B. Kaufman

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 8 provides further insight into the forces responsible for adult brightness and darkness, refining the models of development presented in earlier chapters and broadening the argument of the book. Mixed-methods post-hoc analyses show that socioeconomic attainment in career does not associate with late midlife happiness and that adult brightness and darkness is shaped primarily by adult family life. The impact of career, even for a cohort so heavily invested in it, is circumscribed. Competitive success does not confer significant well-being benefits because of the neutralizing effect of social comparison manifest as a pull for bifurcated self-esteem: participants operating in competitive educational and career worlds felt a loss of merit in a big pond while remaining big fish in less competitive worlds. As a result of comparison to rarified standards of success realized by few, many experienced unrealized career ambition in spite of objectively measured career success. A distinct concept, career failure, affected only a small percent of the sample, was a nonnormative significant decrement in occupational prestige and financial attainment, and resulted from antecedent mental illness. The chapter includes a discussion of participants from disadvantaged backgrounds who, in spite of significant socioeconomic gains, display similar patterns of development.

Keywords:   brightness and darkness, success, family, career, midlife, career failure, happiness, self-esteem, social comparison, mental illness

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