Studies of high achievers done at Harvard University by Dr. David McClelland indicated that the best predictor of personal success was how the achievers thought about themselves, not any advantages of home and education they may have had. Recent studies by Dr. Emmy Werner of resilience in the Hawaiian children of sugar cane workers show similar results. Victim theory, where heavy emphasis is placed upon the effect of the environment, would predict that the poverty, alcoholism, anger, and abuse would push these children into crime and unemployment. Yet one-third of the children found opportunities to lead normal lives once out of their houses and away from their parents. They did well in school, began promising careers, and probably most important, they defined themselves as capable and competent adults.
Ann S. Masten studied Khmer-American children in Minnesota. These teenagers grew up in Pol Pot’s killing fields and the unspeakable horrors of torture, death, starvation, and forced labor directed toward their families and friends. They have nightmares, periods when they are jumpy and nervous, or depressed and anxious; yet, they are till they are getting on with their lives. They are absolute proof of the human capacity for survival and resilience.