The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By by Dan McAdams
Dan McAdams, author of The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By
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New Long-Term Study Examines Midlife Adult Development

Human development and social policy professor Dan McAdams is launching a new longitudinal study of midlife adults, to be called the Foley Longitudinal Study of Adulthood. The study will examine a wide range of psychological, social and cultural factors, with an emphasis on how people’s life stories change in late midlife.

Subjects for study include how these changes connect to psychological and physical well-being, coping with stress and loss, and patterns of civic engagement. Research assistant professor Regina Logan will serve as project director for this study, which is funded by the Foley Family Foundation.

The study will follow approximately 160 men and women, starting at age 56, approximately half African American and half white, as they move into their early and mid-60s. “We are interested in personality development, how people change or stay the same as they age,” says Logan.

“The thing that’s especially exciting is that longitudinal studies are infrequent,” Logan explains, because such studies are expensive and take unusual commitment from a research team and the participating subjects. “But if you’re interested in development, they’re the gold standard.”

“A main theme in the study is the ways in which adults cope with the setbacks of middle adulthood and again and how suffering is sometimes transformed into opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment,” he says. This theme follows up on the central message of McAdams’s award-winning 2006 book, The Redemptive Self.

In-person interviews for the longitudinal study will take place every five years, and every year participants will take a survey. All measures will be online, a technique that is new to the Foley Center. The Foley Center, a major interdisciplinary research program developed by McAdams, has studied adult psychological and social development since 1997. The new study is being funded by a grant from the Foley Family Foundation for $3,225,000.

“Most people are interested in whether people change or stay the same as they get older,” says Logan. “We are particularly interested in the transition from middle midlife to older midlife as the stages change.” The subjects for the study are at the midpoint of the Baby Boomer generation, a generation that is particularly influential because of its size.

by Marilyn Sherman

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Text quote from The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By