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Midlife in the United States (MIDUS 1): Boston Study of Management Processes, 1995-1997 (ICPSR 3596)

Principal Investigator(s): Lachman, Margie E., Brandeis University


This survey of adult management tasks was part of a larger national project to investigate the patterns, predictors, and consequences of midlife development in the areas of physical health, psychological well-being, and social responsibility. Conducted in Boston, the survey was designed to examine how adults manage tasks in three domains of life -- work, family, and health. Further goals were to describe the subjective experience of goal attainment in midlife and to link it with objective measures of short-term longitudinal changes and cognitive functioning. During the national study, the Boston area was intentionally oversampled in order to create a subset to be used for in-depth study of management processes in midlife. The Boston study began six months after the national study, and consisted of three interviews: a 30-minute phone interview followed by a 20-minute mail questionnaire (Time 1), a 90-minute in-person combination of cognitive tests, cortisol testing, photograph taking, and interview (Time 2), and a 30-minute phone interview (Time 3), conducted at six-month intervals. The focus was on projects related to family, work, and health that participants were working on during the period of the study. Each successive interview investigated participants' assessments of their progress in the present, recollection of six months in the past, and prediction six months into the future. At Time 1, participants generated a list of two important family, work, and health tasks, then chose one of each as the most important in that domain. For each of the most important tasks, questions were asked about deadlines, whether participants were doing tasks because they had to do them, felt that they should do them, or chose to do them, and whether participants were doing tasks for themselves, others, or both. All six projects were ranked according to importance, and participants divided all their time into percentages spent on family, work, and health. The majority of questions on the mail questionnaire at Time 1 were taken from the Midlife Development Inventory (MIDI), the instrument created for the national study. Respondents were asked to rate their control over health, to make assessments about present, past, and future health, to list any serious illnesses, and to indicate their physical health status. Study participants also rated their mental health, and discussed stressful life events in the last six months for self, spouse/significant other, parents, and children. Other questions focused on depression, mastery and constraints, community involvement, family, work, and life satisfaction. Scales used included the Ryff Well-Being Scales, the Eysenck Personality Inventory, the Staudinger and Baltes Wisdom Scale (1995), and the Ways of Coping Scale. Time 2 was done in-person, and included a 50-minute series of cognitive tests followed by a 40-minute interview. The cognitive testing consisted of nine measures of cognitive ability completed in the following order: WAIS Forward Digit Span, WAIS Backward Digit Span, WAIS Vocabulary, counting backwards test, letter comparison test, dual-task test involving the counting backwards and letter comparison tests, WAIS Digit Symbol, Schaie-Thurston Letter Series, and Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices. The Time 2 interview began with a series of questions asking about each of the family, work, and health tasks elicited from the participants in Time 1. Many questions were repeated from the MIDI including rating physical health, family life, work situation, and life overall, rating physical and mental health from poor to excellent, and a measure of stressful life events in the last six months for self, spouse/significant other, parents, and children. Participants were asked to rate how old they felt and how old they looked and to indicate their total yearly household income. Lastly, a series of open-ended questions asked about best and worst aspects of family, work, and health, how participants managed their daily life, the most challenging aspect of life and how it was managed, and what participants found most helpful in carrying out their daily life. Photographs were taken of participants at the conclusion of the interview. Time 3 asked again about each of the most important family, work, and health tasks elicited from the participants in Time 1. Newly developed questions asked participants about ideas related to middle age, including when the participant believed middle age begins and ends, whether the participant was younger than, in, or older than middle age, the biggest changes in middle age, the best and worst aspects of middle age, whether the participant knew anyone who had had a "midlife crisis," and whether he or she would have or had had a midlife crisis. Participants were asked to rate how often they had problems and how often things went well with respect to a list of 26 domains, and how much stress and how much control they had in these domains. Lastly, participants were asked whether they had ever returned to a degree-oriented educational program after being out of school for five or more years, whether they were presently taking classes to further their education, and whether being a participant in the study had influenced the ways they thought about their family, work, and health projects.

Series: Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) Series

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  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


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Study Description


Lachman, Margie E. Midlife in the United States (MIDUS 1): Boston Study of Management Processes, 1995-1997. ICPSR03596-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2004. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03596.v1

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03596.v1

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This study was funded by:

  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Research Network on Successful Midlife Development

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    cognitive functioning, coping, family life, goals, health status, life events, life plans, life satisfaction, mental health, midlife, psychological wellbeing, time utilization, work

Geographic Coverage:    Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Time Period:   

  • 1995-10--1997-07

Date of Collection:   

  • 1995--1997

Universe:    Adult noninstitutionalized population of the Boston area living in households.

Data Type(s):    clinical data, survey data

Data Collection Notes:

MIDUS is the main research activity of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Network on Successful Midlife Development (MIDMAC). Additional information on MIDMAC research projects is provided on the MIDMAC Web site at http://www.midmac.med.harvard.edu.


Sample:    Probability sample of noninstitutionalized, English-speaking adults aged 25-75 living in the Boston area.

Data Source:

personal interviews, telephone interviews, mailback questionnaires, and cognitive tests


Original ICPSR Release:   2004-09-02

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