Featured Researcher Dr. Rick SetterstenRick Settersten is Professor of Human Development and Family Sciences. Settersten received his Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University, and held fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin, Germany and the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern. Before moving to OSU in the autumn of 2006, Settersten was Professor of Sociology at Case Western Reserve University, Co-Director of the Schubert Center for Child Studies, and senior faculty associate of the University Center on Aging and Health. At OSU, Rick has played active roles in developing the vision for the new Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families and in collaborating on initiatives related to diversity and community.

My Research

My research is often focused on the early and late ends of adult life. But you’ll almost always find me trying to link the things I’m looking at to the whole life course—whether to earlier experiences, often decades before, that may bring them about; or to later experiences, often decades after, that they may produce.

On the early end of adult life, much of my recent research has focused on the transition to adulthood. I’ve been examining how the transition to adulthood has changed historically, how it varies for subgroups of the population, and the special challenges that vulnerable populations face as they navigate this period. I’ve also been exploring the developmental capacities that young people need to successfully enter adult life today, and what the dramatically prolonged and highly variable transition into adulthood means for family relationships and resources, educational institutions, work organizations, civic engagement and public policies.

To explore these things, I’ve been collaborating for seven years with colleagues in our MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood and Public Policy. I served as the lead editor of our first book, On the Frontier of Adulthood (University of Chicago Press, 2005).

These days, I’ve been writing a lot about the connections between the great shake-ups going on in the 20s and into the 30s and similar transformations that are occurring in other periods of life, including old age.

I’ve also been working with the Spencer Foundation to build a new program of research on civic engagement during the late adolescent and early adult years. I’m lugging my partner and our children to Chicago this summer for a visiting research fellowship at Spencer, where I’ll be working on a new book. On the one hand, Chicago + August = What Were We Thinking? On the other hand, both sets of grandparents, and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins, are nearby. So besides providing a wonderful opportunity to think and write, this will also be a summer that our kids—Maya, 8, and Mario, 4—will never forget.

Where aging is concerned, I’m collaborating with former colleagues from Case Western Reserve University on an NIA-funded project, “Efforts to Controlling Human Aging.” We’re exploring ideas about whether and how it is possible to delay, stop, or reverse human aging, and we’re unpacking the perspectives of three distinct groups of stakeholders: (1) scientists (biogerontologists), (2) providers (doctors and other health professionals affiliated with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine), and (3) consumers of anti-aging therapies. We’re finished interviewing scientists, now interviewing providers, and in the fall, the consumers are up to bat.

Two papers from this project, both of which focus on the science part, were just accepted for publication. One paper is Anti-Aging Science: The Emergence, Maintenance, and Enhancement of a Discipline (by Jennifer Fishman, Bob Binstock, and Marcie Lambrix). The other one, which I led, is From the Lab to the Front Line: How Individual Biogerontologists Navigate their Contested Field (with Michael Flatt and Roselle Ponsaran).

It’s hard to believe that I’m about to finish my second academic year at OSU. I’m still getting to know colleagues, so if we haven’t yet had a chance to meet, please drop a line or stop by and introduce yourselves.

For more information, see Rick Settersten's Faculty Profile