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"The first history of American adulthood, The Prime of Life examines how succeeding generations of Americans dealt with the primary tasks of adulthood: Navigating the passage from youth to maturity, achieving intimacy and connection, raising the next generation, experiencing work's pleasures and pains, and wresting meaning from life's losses and stresses. Highly attentive to class, ethnicity, gender, and race, this book draws upon a wealth of private letters and other previously untapped sources to challenge a host of misconceptions that distort public thinking today. These include the myths that the transition to adulthood was smoother and more seamless in the past and that adulthood was more stable and predictable than it has since become. But this book does something more. It underscores women's historical role in driving fundamental changes in attitudes toward love, friendship, marriage, childrearing, and work. It demonstrates the ways that social class has differentiated adult experience. It also reconstructs the emotional interior of a life stage too often treated as fit only for self-help books or novels dealing with the travails of the suburban middle class. It not only recaptures adulthood's joys and disappointments, its hopes and frustrated expectations, its soaring dreams and bitter regrets, it demonstrates that development across the life span is shaped less by psychology than by cultural and historical circumstances"--Provided by publisher.