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

Resource Type
Dataset : survey data
  • Schuman, Howard (University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research)
  • Corning, Amy (University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research)
Other Title
  • Archival Version (Subtitle)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • National Science Foundation
Free Keywords
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
  • Abstract

    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.
  • Table of Contents


    • DS1: Dataset
Temporal Coverage
  • 1985 / 2010
    Time period: 1985--2010
Geographic Coverage
  • China (Peoples Republic)
  • Germany
  • Global
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Lithuania
  • Russia
  • United States
Collection Mode
  • computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI), face-to-face interview

    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.

Funding insitution(s): National Science Foundation (NSF SES 0853381).
This version of the study is no longer available on the web. If you need to acquire this version of the data, you have to contact ICPSR User Support (
Alternative Identifiers
  • 33001 (Type: ICPSR Study Number)
  • Is previous version of
    DOI: 10.3886/ICPSR33001.v1
  • Schuman, Howard, Corning, Amy. Generational memory and the critical period: Evidence for national and world events. Public Opinion Quarterly.76, (1), 1-31.2012.
    • ID: 10.1093/poq/nfr037 (DOI)

Update Metadata: 2015-08-05 | Issue Number: 6 | Registration Date: 2015-06-16

Schuman, Howard; Corning, Amy (2012): Generational Memory and the Critical Period: Evidence for National and World Events, 1985-2010. Archival Version. Version: v0. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.