I am a developmental psychologist with a general interest in studying psychosocial and health development in adulthood and old age from a lifespan perspective. Drawing from seminal notions of lifespan development and emerging methodologies for longitudinal analysis, my research agenda is centered on three intertwined research objectives.
1. Resilience to major life stressors
My research focus revolves around the extent to which individuals are able to adapt and overcome major life stressors. Major life stressors are disruptive events that result in a qualitative shift in one’s life circumstances. Examples include acute onset stressors, such as a cancer diagnosis or spousal loss, as well as chronic stressors that include childhood abuse or poverty. These stressors can have severe short- and long-term implications for functioning across domains, such as well-being, health or social relationships. My research program focuses on examining the nature of and processes implicated in individuals’ ability to be resilient to acute and chronic major life stressors in adulthood and old age. To address this research objective, my colleagues and I use longitudinal panel surveys (i.e., Health and Retirement Study, German Socio-Economic Panel Study, and HILDA) to track how pertinent outcomes, such as well-being and health change in relation to adversities, such as bereavement and disability. We also examine how specific factors, such as socio-demographics and health, social, and personal resources contribute to better overall outcomes prior to, during, and following these adversities.
2. Psychosocial factors that promote healthy aging
My research examines the extent to which perceived control, defined as one's beliefs regarding their ability to attain desired outcomes, is associated with healthy aging. Outcomes of healthy aging that I focus on include cognition, disability, disease, and mortality. More recently, my colleagues and I have examined pathways that link perceived control to healthy aging, such as physical activity, biological health, and physical fitness. An additional focus has been on linking whether rates of change in perceived control, over and above, absolute levels are predictive of healthy aging outcomes. We have shown that more positive rates of change in perceived control over time are protective against mortality. By effectively showing that changes over time have meaningful implications for health, this research has the potential to open up avenues for intervention and identifying mechanisms linking psychosocial factors to health outcomes.
3. The changing landscape of midlife
When people think about midlife, the first thing that typically comes to mind are outdated narratives such as the midlife crisis and empty nest syndrome. The new science of midlife tells us that midlife is a vibrant period in the lifespan filled with opportunity and societal engagement, but also challenges due to bridging younger and older generations and unprecedented financial vulnerabilities. On top of this, recent empirical evidence has documented that large segments of US middle-aged adults are suffering more than in the past. My research in this realm focuses on chronicling the ups and downs of middle-aged adults, more accurately conceptualizing development in midlife and documenting historical changes in midlife health and well-being and its broader societal implications.