Health and resilience following stress or adversity: Psychological factors associated with positive health outcomes in older adults with varying experiences of early childhood adversity

The aim of this project is to investigate underlying psychological, environmental, and cultural mechanisms of resilience, which may explain differences in the health and well-being of older adults with past experiences of adversity. Building on the previous research with Swiss former Verdingkinder of the research group, this project assesses coping and resilience in Irish older adults with varying experiences of stress or adversity, including survivors of childhood institutional maltreatment. It involves a two-part, mixed methods study: A cross-sectional, quantitative survey will be conducted using standardized questionnaires, followed by qualitative semi-structured interviews.

Project status: ongoing
Contact: Shauna Mc Gee and Dr. Myriam Thoma



Differential aging trajectories in high-risk individuals with past experiences of early adversity

It is the overarching aim of this project to identify the determinants and underlying mechanisms associated with past experiences of early-life adversity within a welfare context, which differentiate detrimental outcomes and trajectories from relative unharmed (resilient) or maybe also positive outcomes and trajectories in later life. This is a prospective longitudinal study with a mid- to older-aged Swiss cohort of persons that were affected by compulsory social measures and placements (CSMP) in their childhood and/or adolescence. This study examines outcomes and trajectories of psychological and physical health over time, as well as related vulnerability and resilience factors.

Project status: ongoing
Contact: Dr. Myriam Thoma and Prof. Dr. Dr. Andreas Maercker



Healthy aging despite the odds – mechanisms behind the steeling effect

This project aimed to investigate potential strengthening or steeling processes in response to the experience of childhood adversity and their hypothesized impact on healthy aging. The project consisted of two sub-studies: a qualitative interview study with N=12 successfully aged older Swiss former indentured child laborers (aged 50 years or older), i.e. Verdingkinder (Sub-Study I) and a quantitative longitudinal survey study with a convenience sample (over N=300; aged 50 years or older) with two assessments one year apart (Sub-Study II).

Project status: completed in 2018
Contact: Jan Hoeltge and Dr. Myriam Thoma



Motivational reserve in old age and models of healthy aging in a medical sample

This project aimed at examining motivational reserve as a protective factor in mild Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Motivational reserve (MR) is defined as a set of motivational abilities that provide the individual with resilience to neuropathological damage. Motivational abilities include decision regulation, activation regulation, motivation regulation, and self-efficacy. In the four-wave prospective longitudinal study, the predictive value of MR on MCI stability and conversion to dementia was investigated.

Project status: completed in 2017
Contact: Prof. Dr. Simon Forstmeier and Prof. Dr. Dr. Andreas Maercker



Psychological health stabilization in Swiss ‘Verding’-children in old age

This project investigated former Verdingkinder and their offspring in a prospective longitudinal study. Particular focus of this study was on the long-term impact of early-life adversity on mental health in older age as well as on the impact of PTSD on biological aging processes. Further, this study examined the impact of parental rearing behavior in the transgenerational conveyance of parental childhood adversity and filial psychological health.

Project status: completed in 2016
Contact: Dr. Dr. Zoya Marinova and Prof. Dr. Dr. Andreas Maercker