Department of Psychology

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Midlife Development Lab

Keski-iän kehityksen tutkimusyksikkö
Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland


Lab Leader: Katja Kokko, Ph.D., Academy Research Fellow

Goals: Our research focuses on midlife development in the areas of personality, well-being, work, family, health and health behavior, and leisure activities. The interfaces between these areas are investigated as well. Our studies apply a lifespan perspective to midlife development. We examine questions such as

  • Does midlife personality have roots in child temperament?
  • How does well-being form and show continuity in mid-adulthood?
  • How does identity develop from young to mid-adulthood?
  • What is adaptive psychological functioning in midlife?
  • Does one’s attitudes and practices during working career affect retirement, and how?
  • Why do some individuals succeed at combining work and family responsibilities across time in adulthood while others fail?
  • Does personality contribute to midlife health?
  • Alcohol drinking in a lifespan perspective?
  • Are there links between leisure activities, health behavior, and health in mid-adulthood?
  • What are the associations between childhood background, the timing of adult life transitions, and mid-adult psychological functioning? 
  • Are there family structure and personality links to social relations in young and mid-adulthood?

Why are these questions and other such questions important? First, midlife development is generally less well understood than earlier and later developmental phases. Second, positive development in midlife, in particular, and its early roots need further understanding. Third, the interface between the various areas (i.e., psychological, social, and physical) of midlife remains significantly uncharted. Finally, understanding better the protective and risk factors in midlife allows improved understanding of successful aging.

Our analyses are based on the ongoing Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development (JYLS), where the same participants have been followed from age 8 to their current age of 50. This longitudinal study was begun in 1968 by Professor Lea Pulkkinen. She remains the principal investigator of the JYLS until the end of the current funding period from the Academy of Finland (2012). Cross-cultural comparisons of the JYLS findings are being conducted with the Center of Analysis of Pathways from Childhood to Adulthood (CAPCA).

Current funding: Academy of Finland (grant numbers 127125, 118316, and 135347) and the Central Finland Regional Fund of the Finnish Cultural Foundation
 

Research team

Katja Kokko (katja.r.kokko(at)jyu.fi) received her Ph.D. degree in 2001 from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. She conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Jyväskylä and at the University of Montreal, Canada. She is currently working as an academy research fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Jyväskylä. She is the leader of the Laboratory for the Study of Midlife Development, the co-principal investigator of the JYLS, and a researcher in the CAPCA. She has funding from the Academy of Finland (grant numbers 118316 and 135347) for the Personality and Social Development in Middle Adulthood: Antecedents, Correlates, and Consequences in a Cross-Cultural Perspective project, and from the Russell Sage Foundation for CAPCA analyses. Her research interests include risk and protective factors in life-span psychological and social development, psychological well-being, working career, and mid-life development. (List of publications.)

Marja-Liisa Kinnunen (marja.liisa.kinnunen(at)jyu.fi), MD, Ph.D. (in psychology) is the co-principal investigator of the JYLS responsible for the medical component of the study, including planning and collection of medical data, collecting the registered medical information, and analyzing and reporting the medical data. Her research interests include personality and emotion regulation development in adulthood, various psychosocial stressors leading to impaired health, as well as recovery and leisure time activities leading to reduction of stress and better health. (List of publications.)

Johanna Rantanen (k.johanna.rantanen(at)jyu.fi) received her Ph.D. degree in Psychology in 2008 from the Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Since then, she has worked as senior assistant (yliassistentti) at the Department of Psychology, University of Tampere (2008–2009) and as post-doctoral researcher during 2009–present at the Departments of Psychology at the Universities of Jyväskylä and Tampere. Her main research interests include work–family interface and the nature of personality from person-oriented and life-span perspectives. (List of publications.)

Eija Räikkönen (eija.m.raikkonen(at)jyu.fi) is a Ph.D. student in psychology at the Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Her doctoral thesis, “Adult Transitions and Psychological Functioning: A Longitudinal View,” is based on the JYLS data. In her doctoral work, she studies adult transitions (i.e., obtaining a degree from a vocational education institution, starting a full-time job, establishment of an intimate relationship, and becoming a parent), their occurrence, timing, ordering, and their links to adulthood psychological functioning. She received her M.Sc. degree in Statistics in 2007 from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Jyväskylä. Her research interests include adult transitions, well-being, and statistics.

Merja Hietalahti (merja.a.hietalahti(at)jyu.fi) is a Ph.D. student in psychology at the Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. In her doctoral thesis, based on the JYLS, she investigates the links between life values, personality, and well-being. She received her M.A. degree in Psychology in 2009 from the Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä.

Kati Tillemann is a Ph.D. student in psychology at the Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Anna-Liisa Lyyra, Lic.Soc.Sci. (statistics) acts as a data analyst and data manager. She has worked as a teacher in statistics for over 15 years, and another 15 years as a researcher and statistician, mainly in fields of psychology and gerontology. Her interests consist of longitudinal statistical analyzing methods and handling missing data.

Pirkko Kekäläinen serves as a project secretary in the JYLS. Her tasks include data storage and preparation of the code book. 

Juho Polet has worked as a research assistant, being involved in the descriptive analysis of the most recent (age 50) JYLS data. He received his M.A. degree in Psychology in 2010 from the Department of Psychology, University of Finland.  

Lea Pulkkinen (lea.pulkkinen(at)jyu.fi) is Professor Emerita of Psychology at the University of Jyväskylä. She was the director of the Program on Human Development and Its Risk Factors, approved as the Finnish Centre of Excellence from 1997 to 2005, and president of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development (ISSBD) from 1991 to 1996. She has conducted an ongoing longitudinal study (JYLS) since 1968 and has collaborated in the Longitudinal Study of Health and Behavior in Twin Children since 1991. She received the Finnish Science Award in 2001, the Aristotle Prize from the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA) in 2003, the Distinguished Scientific Contributions to the Child Development Award from the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) in the United States in 2005, and Distinguished Scientific Award for the Application of Behavioral Development Theory and Research from the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development (ISSBD) in Melbourne, Australia, in 2006. 

Additionally, a number of bachelor’s and master’s degree students working in the Lab will assist in the analysis of the JYLS data for their theses. The members of the Lab contribute to the academic work of the Department of Psychology at the University of Jyväskylä in many ways, such as supervising theses and conducting lectures in their respective areas of study.

The research will be enhanced through the collaboration with experts in specific fields and multiple locations, such as 

University of Jyväskylä:

  • Professor Taru Feldt, Department of Psychology
  • Riitta-Leena Metsäpelto, Ph.D., Lecturer, Department of Teacher Education 
  • Päivi Fadjukoff, Ph.D., Head of Planning and Development, Agora Center 
  • Professor Jaakko Pehkonen, School of Business and Economics
  • Jutta Viinikainen, M.A., assistant, School of Business and Economics
  • Professor Jaakko Pehkonen, School of Business and Economics
  • Professor Mervi Eerola, Methodology Centre for Human Sciences
  • Pirjo Nikander, Ph.D., Senior Assistant, Methodology Centre for Human Sciences
  • Professor Taina Rantanen, Department of Health Sciences, Gerontology Research Centre
  • Mikaela von Bonsdorff, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher, Gerontology Research Centre
  • Monika von Bonsdorff, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher, Gerontology Research Centre and Finnish Institute of Occupational Health

Other national collaboration:

  • Esa Leppänen, M.D., Ph.D., Head of the Clinical Laboratory of Central Finland Health Care District
  • Tuuli Pitkänen, Ph.D., Senior Researcher, Järvenpää Addiction Hospital Finnish Scocial Science Data Archive, University of Tampere 
  • Hanna Wass, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Helsinki, Department of Political Science
  • Finnish Social Science Data Archive, University of Tampere


International collaboration:

  • Center for the Analysis of Pathways from Childhood to Adulthood (CAPCA) network, University of Michigan, USA, led by Professor Pamela Davis-Kean.The JYLS collaboration explores specific themes: social capital (led by Professor Andy Collins), intergenerational transmission of aggression (led by Professors Rowell Huesmann and Eric Dubow), adult life transitions (led by Professor John Schulenberg), early skills as predictors (led by Professor Greg Duncan), and multicultural aspects in aggression (led by Professor Jennifer Lansford and Drs. Katja Kokko and Sharon Simonton). The JYLS collaboration explores specific  themes: social capital (led by Professor Andy Collins), intergenerational transmission of aggression (led by Professors Rowell Huesmann and Eric Dubow), adult life transitions (led by Professor John Schulenberg), early skills as predictors (led by Professor Greg Duncan), and multicultural aspects in aggression (led by Professor Jennifer Lansford and Drs. Katja Kokko and Sharon Simonton). 

 

Contacts

 

Department of Psychology
P.O. Box 35
FI-40014 UNIVERSITY OF JYVÄSKYLÄ
Tel. +358 14 260 1211


Street address: Ylistönmäentie 33

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