From the moment we are born, we age. How individuals negotiate that aging process, especially in the latter half of life, is the focus of my research. My predominant interest is adult personality development. However, personality does not exist in a vacuum and there are many factors inherent in its development, including social roles, such as being married, widowed, divorced, or single; having children or not; or the type of career one has; relationship quality and social support; health and well-being; and the types of activities in which one engages. My research often combines qualitative and quantitative data, and wherever possible, the lenses of gender and race to examine these factors and their association with personality.
Much of my research could be characterized as “me-search”: I became interested in the many paths that people take throughout their lives through my own experience as a relatively late bloomer in the field of psychology after a career as a classical musician. As my research has progressed, it has become abundantly clear to me that people navigate life in myriad ways; individuals’ lives are complex and rarely follow a “one size fits all” progression.
With the current availability of a small tsunami of aging baby boomers, my most recent published research, "Activity Engagement and Activity-Related Experiences: The Role of Personality," concerns personality and its correlates during retirement. Along with colleagues at the University of Michigan, I examined the relationship between personality and activity engagement in older adults aged 51 to 99, using data from the United States-based Health and Retirement Study. Participants were asked about the previous day’s types of activities, amount of time spent in them, and their positive or negative feelings during the activity. Not surprisingly, we found that extraversion – being gregarious and active, seeking excitement – was associated with the likelihood to socialize and enjoyment of socializing; but counter to our expectations, high extraversion was not related to spending more time socializing, however enjoyable it was. This finding contradicts commonly-held beliefs about both extraverts and older adults.
Continuing this line of inquiry at Wilfrid Laurier University is my current passion. As part of a broader program of research concerning how women and men negotiate times of transition, my team and I are running the Canadians’ Retirement Expectations and Experiences study. From surveys and telephone interviews, we hope to identify: Canadians’ experiences of retirement and the skills and psychosocial resources they bring to it; to understand any qualitative changes in post-retirement activities; and how personality is associated with retirement adjustment.
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