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Jamila Bookwala, associate professor of psychology, has received a $57,359 research grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The grant will allow Bookwala to undertake a one-year project using a life course perspective to examine the short- and long-term impact of transitioning into the parent care role on the lives of adult offspring.

The grant will enable Bookwala to tie both her past and recent research together.

“I have conducted research on family care giving among older adults – those aged 60+ years – but have focused on spousal care giving, where one member of the marital pair is functionally disabled and receives assistance from his or her spouse,” she says. “More recently, however, I have examined the impact of marital quality on older adults’ physical and mental health. The research project that received the award allows me to bring these two areas of research together by allowing me to examine the impact of caring for a parent on the adult child’s marriage and health.”

She will place special emphasis on studying the effects of that transition on the quality and stability of the adult-child caregiver’s marital relationship and the role of pre- and post-transition marital quality in regulating the relationship between the care giving transition and subsequent psychological and physical health outcomes.

Secondary data analyses on a national probability-based sample will be performed using three waves of data from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH).

Bookwala’s goals are to examine the impact of the transition to parent care – whether it be caring for a parent or parent-in-law – on adult offspring’s marital outcomes, psychological well-being, and physical health, and to evaluate simple and complex interrelationships among these variables following such a care giving transition.

She will compare these changes over time across four groups of adult children. The groups are comprised of those who transitioned into the parent care role over the course of the NSFH, current and veteran caregivers, former caregivers, and those that did not experience parent care transitions.

She also will evaluate the extent to which pre-transition marital quality and changes in post-transition marital quality regulate the link between the transition to parent care and health-related caregiver outcomes, and examine the role of caregiver gender and social support as moderating variables in the link between the transition to parent care and health-related caregiver outcomes.

Bookwala believes the research will be extremely relevant to issues public health officials currently face.

“The proposed research will elucidate further the care giving stress-outcome link by prospectively studying the impact of parent care transitions on the adult-child caregiver’s marital quality and stability, psychological well-being, and physical health,” she explains. “A special focus of the study is to examine the extent to which pre-transition marital quality moderates and post-transition changes in marital quality mediate the effects of transitioning to the parent care role on detrimental psychological and physical health outcomes.”

Psychology major Carolyn Pasternak ’08 (New Canaan, Conn.) will assist with the project, and Bookwala plans to add more students in the future.

A member of the Lafayette faculty since 2001, Bookwala regularly includes students in her research. She has worked with Brett Strouse ’05, a psychology and economics & business graduate, on how friends and family affect individual health; Marquis Scholar Meghan Sweeney ’05, a neuroscience graduate, on the role vitamin supplements play in preventing Alzheimer’s disease; and Joelle Sobin ’05, a psychology graduate, on an article that appeared in Psychology of Women Quarterly.

She is the recipient of multiple grants from both the American Psychological Association (APA) and Pennsylvania State University, and has earned awards from the APA, National Institute on Aging, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Bombay. She has shared her research through more than 50 journal articles and conference presentations.

In 2004, her research on how poor marriages can affect the health of aging adults was featured in USA Today. The article was picked up or summarized by newspapers such as The Washington Post, The Denver Post, The Arizona Republic, and The Seattle Times. Publications in Great Britain, Australia, and South Africa also reported on the research.

In addition, ABC News Radio distributed an interview with Bookwala to more than 3,000 affiliate stations, and she was interviewed on the live radio program “A Touch of Grey,” which is broadcast on about 50 stations, including WOR in New York City.

In 2003, she received a grant from the Lindback Foundation to conduct research on the links among marital quality, depression, and ethnicity in older Americans. Also that year, she was among 15 scholars selected from a national pool of applicants to attend a prestigious Summer Research Training Institute funded by the National Institute on Aging at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn.

Bookwala has been an ad hoc reviewer since 1995 for Health Psychology, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Journal of Clinical Psychology, Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Psychology and Aging, Psychology of Women Quarterly, Research on Aging, Sex Roles, and The Gerontologist.

Bookwala earned Ph.D. and master’s degrees in social psychology from University of Pittsburgh, a master’s degree in psychology from City University of New York, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from University of Bombay.

Categorized in: Academic News