Vaillant found that the men who had the best scores in these areas during their youth and mid-life, were the happiest, most successful, and best adjusted in their latter years. This is the finding of the Grant Study that has emerged most prominently: “It was the capacity for intimate relationships that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.”
The powerful effect of intimate relationships can be seen in a variety of factors in a man’s life, including their income levels:
- Men with at least one good relationship with a sibling growing up made $51,000 more per year than men who had poor relationships with their siblings, or no siblings at all
- Men who grew up in cohesive homes made $66,000 more per year than men from unstable ones
- Men with warm mothers took home $87,000 more than those men whose mothers were uncaring
- The 58 men with the best scores for warm relationships made almost $150,000 more per year than the 31 men with the worst scores
[...]When the outcomes of the men’s lives were analyzed, and compared to this set of criteria, it became quite clear that “for good or ill, the effects of childhood last a long time.” A warm childhood proved a much stronger predictor of many aspects of a man’s flourishing later in life, including his overall contentment in his late seventies, than either his parent’s social class or his own income. These effects are particularly striking when the men with the warmest childhoods (who were dubbed “the Cherished”) are compared with those in the bottom tenth (who were called “the Loveless”):
- The Cherished made 50% more money than the Loveless
- The Cherished were 5X more likely to enjoy rich friendships and warm social supports at age seventy
- The Loveless were 3.5X more likely to be diagnosed as mentally ill (which includes serious depression, abuse of drugs and alcohol, and need for extended psychiatric care)
- The Loveless were 5X more likely to be unusually anxious
- The Loveless took more prescription drugs of all kinds, and were twice as likely to seek medical attention for minor physical complaints
A loving, supportive upbringing seemed to both bolster a man’s chances for success in his relationships and career, and inoculate him against future psychological distress.
[...]While parenting pundits at various times in our history have worried that a household full of unwavering love and support could turn out a young man who was too coddled and dependent,the Grant Study found that abundant familial love, when coupled with an emphasis on autonomy and initiative, actually produced the most stoical (able to keep a stiff upper lip) and independent men. Such men, Vaillant explains, had learned to be comfortable with their feelings, and “that they could put their trust in life, which gave them courage to go out and face it.” In contrast, the men from the worst childhoods turned out to be the most dependent, and struggled with taking initiative.
And most interestingly:
One of the findings of the study that I personally found most interesting, was that “a mother who could enjoy her son’s initiative and autonomy was a tremendous boon to his future.” Mothers of men who scored highly on the Decathlon of Flourishing admired their sons’ assertiveness, and boasted to researchers that their boys were “fearless to the point of being reckless,” “could fight any kid on the block,” and “is a tyrant in a way that I adore.” In other words, mothers who celebrated their boys’ boyishness bolstered their chances of achieving a successful, mature manhood.
I really recommend that everyone read this post, especially if you know a young man who you want to be influential and effective. And men who are not yet married but want to should understand that who you pick to be the child’s mother is going to have an ENORMOUS effect on their emotional well-being and their ability to succeed and provide. Good men require good mothers.