Aging, Health Behaviors, and Health Outcomes

By K. Warner Schaie; Dan Blazer et al. | Go to book overview

Cohort Experiences, Support Versatility, Depressive Traits, and Theory

Stanley A. Murrell University of Louisville

First, a comment that is a response both to George's chapter and more generally to all of the contributions in this volume. It seems a natural and useful evolution for a field of study to progress through cycles of research. The first cycle perhaps entails the throwing of a wide net to encompass a broad range of variables but within a certain conceptual perspective. The first cycle serves to both reveal more clearly the complexity of relationships and to rule out those hypotheses, relationships, and variables that appear to be unimportant to the phenomena being studied. The comprehensiveness of this cycle eventually yields a better "big picture" of the phenomena and a new perspective gradually emerges that changes the roles of different variables.

A conceptual shift seems to be occurring now in the study of stress and resources. What have been seen up to now primarily as control variables are now seen as independent variables having greater substantive value and deserving of new attention. In this volume, George suggested this for age, House for socioeconomic variables, James for race, and Berkman's findings suggested this for gender.

What is the nature of the conceptual shift? Surely, it is too early in the shift to see this very clearly. Most explicit in the contributions to this volume is the need to better explicate the context. Each of these "demographic" variables illuminates the personal experience context of aging and health. A much less explicit shift may be the recognition of the need to extend the context by studying the phenomena over a longer temporal field. Embedded in age, gender, race, and social class are experiences that are life long, extending back many years before the researcher arrives to take a measurement "snapshot."

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