The Adult Family Project

Dr. Karen Fingerman is a Professor of Human Development & Family Sciences and is the Director of the Texas Aging & Longevity Center at UT Austin.

The Adult Family Project focuses on adults’ relationships with their parents, spouses, grown children, romantic partners, friends, and other social partners across adulthood and into old age. We look at how relationships with family members, friends, and acquaintances change from young adulthood to old age. This research has drawn on survey methods, observational studies, experimental paradigms, daily diary, and salivary hormone data collection techniques. We also have conducted research using ambulatory assessments by asking older adults to wear devices with sensors as they go about their day. This research has involved accelerometers/ActiCals, Ecological Momentary Assessments (EMA), Electronically Activated Recorders, and other technologies.

We have several studies funded by the National Institute on Aging. The Family Exchanges Study is a longitudinal study involving middle-aged adults, their romantic partners, grown children and aging parents funded by the National Institute on Aging. This study examined relationships between young adults, midlife parents, and an aging older generation. Over 50 papers have identified the strength of intergenerational bonds, how family members support one other, and stresses and conflicts that arise in these ties. Data from the Family Exchanges Study are publically available at:

Dr. Fingerman is also conducting the NIA-funded Daily Experiences in Late Life Study examining older adults’ social relationships and physical and cognitive functioning in a daily context. This study included over 300 older adults and tracked social interactions and daily activities using ambulatory assessments. Publications on this study include assessments of physical activity, conversations, sleep, pain, empathy, and older adults’ subjective experiences throughout the day.

Dr. Fingerman is highly invested in teaching and mentorship. She has won the College of Natural Sciences Teaching Excellence Award at UT Austin and the Natural Sciences Student Council on Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Faculty Teaching Award. In 2020 she also received a Distinguished Mentorship Award from the Gerontological Society of America.

She has published over 175 scholarly articles in collaboration with her doctoral students. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has funded her work for over 20 years. She has also received funding from the Brookdale Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation Network on Transitions to Adulthood and the MacArthur Foundation Network on an Aging Society.

To read publications from our research, please click here.

We have a number of exciting study opportunities for people who want to participate in our research and for students who want to get involved in conducting research. Research is conducted in the Human Development and Family Sciences Department at the University of Texas at Austin.

If you would like to learn more about us, Contact us!

Visit the Texas Aging & Longevity Center website to stay up to date on events that discuss research in the field of aging.

Visit the Aging & Health Portfolio website to see the graduate portfolio program offered at The University of Texas.

Visit the UT Center on Aging & Population Sciences to learn more about NIA-funded research at UT Austin.