STUDY OF ADULT DEVELOPMENT
History of the Study
The Study of Adult Development is a longitudinal study that has been following two groups of men over
the last 80 years to identify the psychosocial predictors of healthy aging. We have two groups of
participants: The Grant Study that is composed of 268 Harvard graduates from the classes of
1939-1944 and the Glueck Study group that is made up of 456 men who grew up in the inner-city
neighborhoods of Boston. We are particularly interested in what psychosocial variables and biological
processes from earlier in life predict health and well-being in late life (80’s and 90’s), what aspects of
childhood and adult experience predict the quality of intimate relationships in late life, and how
late life marriage is linked with health and well-being. We are now beginning to study the children of our
original participants in our G2 (Second Generation) study.
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.
This 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.
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.
W.T. Grant Foundation Archiving Project
Thanks to a grant from the W. T. Grant Foundation, the Study of Adult Development has undertaken a large and important archiving project, which began in 2010. As you may know, Mr. W. T. Grant was the first person to support the Grant Study research project at Harvard University Health Services in 1938 with a $60,000 grant. Here we are—75 years later—again the grateful recipients of the W. T. Grant Foundation’s generosity.
With the rich data collected from two important longitudinal studies of human development: The Grant Study (Harvard men) and The Glueck Study (Inner City men) the Study determined it was crucial to convert the collected data set into an electronic format available to Study staff, and eventually to researchers and scholars of human development.
With the help of college interns seeking degrees in archiving, publishing, or library science, and employing the services of DataBank IMX, a company specializing in document imaging, we have successfully completed the digital conversion of the entire Grant Study records. We are currently working on the Glueck Study archiving project.
Original Study records, which date back to 1939, were, of course, handwritten! Later documents were hand-typed until computers became available. Technology has now evolved to enable the Study staff to search, manage, and store these irreplaceable records on a secure server at MGH, which our staff can easily access from their secure computers in our lab.
This priceless study of lives will be preserved well into the future.