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Generational Memory and the Critical Period: Evidence for National and World Events, 1985-2010 (ICPSR 33001)

Principal Investigator(s): Schuman, Howard, University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research; Corning, Amy, University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research


Investigators of this study bring together survey data from sources both new and old in order to test the generational hypothesis that national and world events experienced during a "critical period" of later childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood have a disproportionate effect on memories, attitudes, and actions in later life. Also considered were competing explanations for the same evidence, especially interpretations based on period and recency effects. The data come from nine surveys, mostly national, carried out in the United States and in six other countries (China, Germany, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, and Russia), between 1985 and 2010. The hypothesis is largely supported for recall of past events, and also for commemorative behavior connected to World War II and to the Vietnam War. The evidence is mixed with regard to attitudes toward the Gulf War and the Iraq invasion, emphasizing the distinction between generational effects that result from lifetime experience and those due to a critical period. The analysis considered most of the major events faced by Americans over the past 80 years, ranging from the Great Depression to current issues, including such national traumas as the assassination of President Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack. Comparable events in other countries were also examined.

Access Notes

  • These data are flagged as replication datasets and are distributed exactly as they arrived from the data depositor. ICPSR has not checked or processed this material. Users should consult the investigator(s) if further information is desired.

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


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Study Description


Schuman, Howard, and Amy Corning. Generational Memory and the Critical Period: Evidence for National and World Events, 1985-2010. ICPSR33001-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2012-01-23. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR33001.v1

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR33001.v1

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  • RIS (generic format for RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)
  • EndNote XML (EndNote X4.0.1 or higher)


This study was funded by:

  • National Science Foundation (NSF SES 0853381)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    adults, attitudes, child development, childhood, coping, emotional development, experience, life events, mental health, psychological effects, September 11 attack, terrorism, Vietnam War, war, world problems, World War II, world wars

Geographic Coverage:    China (Peoples Republic), Germany, Global, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, Russia, United States

Time Period:   

  • 1985--2010

Unit of Observation:    individual

Data Type(s):    survey data

Data Collection Notes:

A zipped package contains PDF documents and a SPSS data file containing the data, tables, and figures used in the publication.

This document is part of ICPSR's Publication-Related Archive and is distributed exactly as it arrived from the data depositor. ICPSR has not checked or processed this material. Users should consult the principal investigator if further information is desired.


Time Method:    Cross-sectional

Mode of Data Collection:    computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI), face-to-face interview


Original ICPSR Release:   2012-01-23

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