Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Two studies were conducted to examine interview responses of adults in their 70s and 80s participating in the Study of Adult Development at Harvard University. The sample was comprised of 2 sub-groups of participants, differing primarily on socioeconomic status. The first study, “Language Use, Well-being, and Defensive Style in Late Life,” utilized data from 114 men. Linguistic word-count software (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) was applied to participants‘ interview responses, and quantitative analyses were employed to examine connections between language use and self-reported well-being, marital satisfaction, happiness, and defensive style. The second study, “Memory and Legacy: Thematic Analysis of Older Adults‘ Narratives,” examined data from 90 husbands and wives (45 heterosexual couples). The qualitative method of thematic analysis was utilized to code core themes from the interviews and compare them with adult developmental theory. Further, a typology of broader narrative “story” types was identified for the purposes of understanding participants‘ experiences of aging in depth. Group differences were also examined in terms of the narrative typology. In both studies, results indicated links between linguistic and narrative features and well-being in late life, and highlighted several group differences. Discussions emphasize the importance of accounting for socioeconomic status and culture when studying well-being through language use or narrative.