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Caregiving may be burdensome to caregivers, negatively affecting health and impacting decisions to institutionalize patients. It is unclear how caregiver depression changes over longer periods or whether heterogeneous trajectories for caregivers are apparent. The goals of this article are to characterize the course of depressive symptoms among caregivers over time and to examine the impact of baseline patient and caregiver characteristics on these trajectories. Patients with dementia and their caregivers were followed every 6 months for up to 6 years or until death (n = 133). Growth mixture modeling identified trajectories of caregiver depression over time. Most caregivers had stable trajectories of symptoms, with a smaller subset showing evidence of wear-and-tear. Patient clinical characteristics had no impact on symptom course for caregivers. Future work should utilize a longitudinal perspective and consider that there may be heterogeneous trajectories for caregivers. Those caregivers who follow a wear-and-tear trajectory may require targeted interventions to improve outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4240506  PMID: 24956922
2.  Parenthood, Stress, and Mental Health in Late Midlife and Early Old Age 
Using two waves of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, I examine psychological consequences of potentially stressful, non-normative, or “off-time” aspects of the parental role in late midlife and early old age, including coresidence with adult children, stepparenthood, and parental bereavement. Additionally, I analyze gender differences in psychological implications of these characteristics of parenthood. Findings from random-effects pooled time-series models indicate that having stepchildren is unrelated to older parents’ mental health. Moreover, the psychological consequences of stepparenthood do not depend on parental gender or the quality of parent-child relationships. Conversely, having at least one coresidential adult child of post-college age decreases psychological well-being among mothers but not among fathers. Death of a child has a detrimental effect on parents’ mental health; yet, fathers are affected more adversely than mothers. The findings are interpreted with respect to family stress, parental role, and gendered role perspectives. Distinct experiences of this cohort of mothers and fathers are discussed.
PMCID: PMC4150355  PMID: 19445346
Parenthood; stress; depression; psychological well-being; adult children
3.  Community Engagement: An Essential Component of Well-Being in Older African-American Adults* 
Active engagement in life is a critical factor for successful aging. Research indicates that community engagement is strongly associated with health and well-being in late life. However, less is understood regarding the influence of neighborhood conditions on health and well-being, particularly in older African-American adults. The current study describes a convenience sample of older African Americans (N = 501, mean age = 70.7 [range 55-95] years) living in Detroit. The specific goal is to examine the relationships between their perceptions of neighborhood conditions, level of community engagement, and their health and well-being. Survey findings reveal a sample of highly engaged older African Americans in reasonable health who perceive their neighborhoods favorably. Regression analysis results indicate that community engagement is closely associated with both neighborhood perceptions and well-being in this sample. We propose that community engagement or “participation” mediates the relationship between neighborhood conditions and well-being for older African Americans living in Detroit.
PMCID: PMC4148077  PMID: 24340874
4.  Predicting Changes in Older Adults’ Interpersonal Control Strivings 
People vary in the importance they ascribe to, and efforts they invest in, maintaining positive relationships with others. Research has linked such variation in interpersonal control strivings to the quality of social exchanges experienced, but little work has examined the predictors of interpersonal control strivings. Given the importance of close relationships in later life, this study examined conditions that might precipitate increases or declines in interpersonal control strivings over a 2-year period. Specifically, change in interpersonal control strivings was hypothesized to be particularly influenced by the interplay of two co-occurring conditions: 1) experiences in the social environment that bolster or undermine older adults’ motivation to foster satisfying social ties and 2) the availability of personal resources to respond to these experiences. The findings suggest that a change in older adults’ interpersonal control strivings over a 2-year period was affected jointly by the frequency with which they experienced positive social exchanges and their health status. Features of the social environment, therefore, may interact with personal resources to influence interpersonal control strivings in later life.
PMCID: PMC3917602  PMID: 20041564
Although daily social exchanges are important for well-being, it is unclear how different types of exchanges affect daily well-being, as well as which factors influence the way in which individuals react to their daily social encounters. The present study included a sample of 705 adults aged 31 to 91, and using Multilevel Modeling analyses investigated whether loneliness or age moderate the relationship between daily affect and daily social exchanges with family and friends. Results indicated differences between events involving family and those involving friends. Furthermore, lonelier individuals benefitted more from positive events than less lonely adults but were not more negatively reactive to negative events. Moreover, results suggested that older adults’ affect is more independent of both positive and negative social events compared to younger people. Implications are discussed for the importance of daily social exchanges, daily social stress vulnerability, and the influences of loneliness across middle and later adulthood.
PMCID: PMC3725036  PMID: 22950350
While research on parent-adult child relationships has expanded over the last two decades, most research has ignored the experiences of older fathers and their relationships with adult children. The present study sought to explore how midlife and older men assess the costs and rewards associated with their fatherhood experiences and how fathers’ level of paternal maturity influences their perceptions of fatherhood. More specifically, the purpose of the present study was two-fold: to explore the costs and rewards of fatherhood and whether paternal maturity serves as a moderator of older men’s fatherhood experiences. A purposive sample of 96 fathers (age 50–80) completed measures assessing ego development, generativity, and costs and rewards of fatherhood. The construct of paternal maturity, hypothesized to influence assessment of fatherhood experiences, was operationally defined as combining both affective (generativity) and cognitive (ego development) levels of psychological maturity. Results indicate mixed support for the influence of paternal maturity on fathers’ perceptions of costs and rewards. Overall, findings note that the affective side of maturity (generativity) is more strongly associated with fathers’ accounts of the costs and rewards than the cognitive side of maturity (ego development). Discussion centers on the utility of these concepts and the implications for continued research into the ongoing relationships between fathers and adult children.
PMCID: PMC3677600  PMID: 21391406
Against the backdrop of a dramatic increase in the number of individuals living longer, particularly older women, it is vital that researchers explore the intersection of spirituality, gender, and aging. In this qualitative study of six women aged 80 and older, I explore, using, multiple, in-depth interviews, the experiences of spirituality over the life course. A hermeneutic phenomenological analysis of the interviews was performed and provided insights into the nature of their “lived experience” allowing for the understanding of the essence of their spirituality. The results are presented as an interpretation of the participants’ perceptions of their spirituality and spiritual experiences. For the women in this study, the essence of their spirituality lies in: being profoundly grateful; engaging in complete acceptance; and having a strong sense of assuredness, while stressing the linkages and importance of spirituality. Implications for understanding spirituality for older adults are considered.
PMCID: PMC3572539  PMID: 23185856
8.  How it matters when it happens: Life changes related to functional loss in younger and older adults 
This study examined the impact of loss of vision on important life domains depending on life context. The sample included two groups dealing with vision impairment: middle-aged (n=44) and older adults (n=107). Findings showed important group differences in extent, type, and facet of life changes across and within four life domains: goals/priorities, self-views, worldviews, and relationships with others. Overall, middle-aged participants experienced more change, and these changes seemed to be more pronounced. Findings suggest that if vision loss occurs in middle adulthood, it tends to be more disruptive, and that it comes with the risk of negative long-term consequences.
PMCID: PMC3202214  PMID: 20405588
This study focused on the identification of conceptually meaningful groups of individuals based on their joint self-concept differentiation (SCD) and self-concept clarity (SCC) scores. Notably, we examined whether membership in different SCD-SCC groups differed by age and also was associated with differences in psychological well-being (PWB). Cluster analysis revealed five distinct SCD-SCC groups: a self-assured, unencumbered, fragmented-only, confused-only, and fragmented and confused group. Individuals in the self-assured group had the highest mean scores for positive PWB and the lowest mean scores for negative PWB, whereas individuals in the fragmented and confused group showed the inverse pattern. Findings showed that it was psychologically advantageous to belong to the self-assured group at all ages. As hypothesized, older adults were more likely than young adults to be in the self-assured cluster, whereas young adults were more likely to be in the fragmented and confused cluster. Thus, consistent with extant theorizing, age was positively associated with psychologically adaptive self-concept profiles.
This study examined whether conceptually meaningful subgroups of individuals can be identified based on their joint scores on self-concept differentiation (SCD) and self-concept clarity (SCC). Specifically, we considered whether individuals within such subgroups differed systematically from one another on measures of positive and negative psychological well-being (PWB). Of interest to us was also whether there were age differences in the distribution of adults across the SCD-SCC groups and whether age moderated the association between PWB and SCD-SCC grouping.
PMCID: PMC3198817  PMID: 22010361
10.  Cultural Perspectives on Aging and Well-Being: A Comparison of Japan and the U.S. 
This study investigated age differences in multiple aspects of psychological well-being among midlife and older adults in Japan (N = 482) and the U.S. (N = 3,032) to test the hypothesis that older Japanese adults would rate aspects of their well-being (personal growth, purpose in life, positive relations with others) more highly that older U.S. adults. Partial support was found: older adults in Japan showed higher scores on personal growth compared to midlife adults, whereas the opposite age pattern was found in the U.S. However, purpose in life showed lower scores for older adults in both cultural contexts. Interpersonal well-being, as hypothesized, was rated significantly higher, relative to the overall well-being, among Japanese compared to U.S. respondents, but only among younger adults. Women in both cultures showed higher interpersonal well-being, but also greater negative affect compared with men. Suggestions for future inquiries to advance understanding of aging and well-being in distinct cultural contexts are detailed.
PMCID: PMC3183740  PMID: 21922800
The Meaningful Activity Participation Assessment (MAPA), a recently developed 28-item tool designed to measure the meaningfulness of activity, was tested in a sample of 154 older adults. The MAPA evidenced a sufficient level of internal consistency and test-retest reliability and correlated as theoretically predicted with the Life Satisfaction Index-Z, the Satisfaction with Life Scale, the Engagement in Meaningful Activities Survey, the Purpose in Life Test, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Inventory and the Rand SF-36v2 Health Survey subscales. Zero-order correlations consistently demonstrated meaningful relationships between the MAPA and scales of psychosocial well-being and health-related quality of life. Results from multiple regression analyses further substantiated these findings, as greater meaningful activity participation was associated with better psychological well-being and health-related quality of life. The MAPA appears to be a reliable and valid measure of meaningful activity, incorporating both subjective and objective indicators of activity engagement.
PMCID: PMC3177298  PMID: 20649161
12.  Does believing in “use it or lose it” relate to self-rated memory control, strategy use and recall? 
After an oral free recall task, participants were interviewed about their memory. Despite reporting similar levels of perceived personal control over memory, older and young adults differed in the means in which they believed memory could be controlled. Older adults cited health and wellness practices and exercising memory, consistent with a ‘use it or lose it’ belief system, more often than young adults who were more likely to mention metacognition and flexible strategy use as means of memory control. Young adults reported using more effective relational strategy use during study for a free recall test. Use of relational strategies predicted recall in both age groups, but did not materially affect age differences in performance. Metacognitive beliefs, including implicit theories about aging and memory decline, memory self-concept, and perceived control over memory functioning did not systematically correlate with strategy use or recall.
PMCID: PMC2852899  PMID: 20377166
Being discriminated against is an unpleasant and stressful experience, and its connection to reduced psychological well-being is well-documented. The present study hypothesized that a sense of control would serve as both mediator and moderator in the dynamics of perceived discrimination and psychological well-being. In addition, variations by age, gender, and race in the effects of perceived discrimination were explored. Data from the Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) survey (N = 1,554; age range = 45 to 74) provided supportive evidence for the hypotheses. The relationships between perceived discrimination and positive and negative affect were reduced when sense of control was controlled, demonstrating the role of sense of control as a mediator. The moderating role of sense of control was also supported, but only in the analysis for negative affect: the combination of a discriminatory experience and low sense of control markedly increased negative affect. In addition, age and gender variations were observed: the negative impact of perceived discrimination on psychological well-being was more pronounced among younger adults and females compared to their counterparts. The findings elucidated the mechanisms by which perceived discrimination manifested its psychological outcomes, and suggest ways to reduce adverse consequences associated with discriminatory experiences.
PMCID: PMC2846833  PMID: 18459602
14.  Custodial Grandmothers' Psychological Distress, Dysfunctional Parenting, and Grandchildren's Adjustment*ł 
An adaptation of the Family Stress Model (FSM) with hypothesized linkages between family contextual factors, custodial grandmothers' psychological distress, parenting practices, and grandchildren's adjustment was tested with structural equation modeling. Interview data from 733 custodial grandmothers of grandchildren between ages 4-17 revealed that the effect of grandmothers' distress on grandchildren's adjustment was mediated by dysfunctional parenting, especially regarding externalizing problems. The effects of contextual factors on grandchildren's adjustment were also indirect. The model's measurement and structural components were largely invariant across grandmothers' race and age, as well as grandchildren's gender and age. Group differences were more prevalent regarding the magnitude of latent means for model constructs. We conclude that parenting models like the FSM are useful for investigating custodial grandfamilies.
PMCID: PMC2792126  PMID: 19266869
This qualitative study delineates motives for residential mobility, describes dynamics between the elder and family members during the move decision process, and locates the move decision within ecological layers of the aging context. Interviews were conducted with 30 individuals and couples (ages 60-87) who experienced a community-based move within the past year, and with 14 extended family members. Reasons for moving (from perspectives of both elders who moved and their family members) were grouped into four themes and eleven issues that influenced the move decision. These themes parallel the ecological context of individual health and functioning, beliefs and attitudes, physical environment, and social pressures. Late-life mobility is a significant life transition that is the outcome of an ongoing appraisal and reappraisal of housing fit with individual functioning, needs, and aspirations. Family members are an integral part of these decision and residential mobility processes.
Well, she moved because my sister and I decided she was going to move. But she wanted to move. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t decided that she was gonna move. It was a little complicated . . . - Linda Brierton’s daughter, Karen
PMCID: PMC2386962  PMID: 18453180
This study examined how older adults cope with negative life events in health, interpersonal, and financial/work domains and whether common stress and coping processes hold across these three domains. On three occasions, older adults identified the most severe negative event they faced in the last year and described how they appraised and coped with that event, their ambient chronic stressors, and event and functioning outcomes. The stress and coping process was largely consistent across the three life domains. Individuals who appraised events as challenging and relied more on approach coping were more likely to report some benefit from those events. Individuals who experienced more chronic stressors and favored avoidance coping were more likely to be depressed and to have late-life drinking problems. Chronic stressors, as well as approach and avoidance coping, were predictably associated with overall outcomes in all three event domains. These findings provide a basis for preventive interventions that may help older adults’ address the most prevalent stressors of aging more effectively.
PMCID: PMC1948895  PMID: 16454482

Results 1-16 (16)