The study of adult development has encompassed decades of examining various traits of adult men through their lives.
Study of Adult Development
The Study of Adult Development is the longest longitudinal study of adult life ever conducted. For 68 years, two groups of men have been studied from adolescence into late life to identify the predictors of healthy aging. This study has allowed us to examine the psychological traits, social factors, and biological processes that characterize adolescents and forty-year-olds who evolve into vigorous and engaged octogenarians.
The study has created an unprecedented database of life histories with which to view the dynamic character of the aging process. A map of Boston neighborhoods in which Glueck Study men grew up.
The two groups that make up the Study are very different.
- The Harvard cohort, known as the "Grant Study," is a group of 268 Harvard graduates from the classes of 1939-1944.
- The Inner-City cohort, known as the "Glueck Study," is a group of 456 men who grew up in the inner-city neighborhoods of Boston, originally selected for a study by Harvard Law School professor Sheldon Glueck between 1940 and 1945.
Learning About Our Participants
- Questionnaires: Every 2 years, both the Grant and Glueck men complete questionnaires asking about their physical and mental health, marital quality, career or retirement enjoyment, and many other aspects of their lives.
- Health Information: Every five years, health information is collected from the men and their physicians to assess their physical health.
- Interviews: Many of the men from both groups have been interviewed at different intervals over the years to document more in-depth information about their relationships, their careers, and their adjustment to aging.
Our Research Foci
- What predicts healthy aging? By observing the adult lives of these two diverse samples, we have been able to identify familial, childhood, and psychological variables (e.g. defense mechanisms) that predict happy and healthy adjustments to life, marriage and successful aging. We have also identified variables that are linked with poor physical or mental health, unhappy marriages, and poor adjustment to retirement later in life.
- Marriage is a central focus of the current phase of the study. Because relationships in late life withstand some of the greatest stresses of the life cycle, such as illness and declining physical functioning, the factors that promote stable and satisfying relationships later in life are key to our understanding of positive aging.
- Social Neuroscience. We are now beginning to take the Study in a direction that will multiply and expand the value of this resource for future scientists and scholars. By adding genetic information, sensitive tests of intellectual functioning, neuroimaging of brain structure and function, and ultimately brain autopsy to nearly 70 years of behavioral data, we will create an unprecedented (and irreplaceable) resource for the study of social neuroscience -- links between brain and behavior in human aging. The combination will allow investigators from diverse disciplines to shed light on some of the most fundamental questions about the aging process.