Elaine Wethington, Associate Professor in the Departments of Human Development and Sociology and co-Director of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging, is a medical sociologist, specializing in the sociology of mental health and illness. Her work relates to the theme of the proposal in several different ways. First, breakdowns in family and sexual relationships are powerful sources of stress in individuals’ lives, and research shows that they are more likely than other equally severe events to provoke episodes of clinically significant mental illness. However, family relationships and the quality of those relationships are also powerful “buffers” when individuals are under stress that originates outside the family. In addition, recent changes in family structures in the U.S. and the diversity of these changes across social groups are associated with concomitant changes in the relative mental and physical health in social groups, most notably among adolescents and young adults. As a co-investigator on the National Comorbidity Survey 2, a longitudinal study of mental health and illness among a representative sample of 5000 Americans (funded by the National Institutes of Drug Abuse, P.I. R. C. Kessler, Harvard University Medical School), Wethington plans to extend her work on mental health to broader questions about the interplay of family formation and dissolution and mental health. Wethington also contributes to the methodological breadth of the group by bringing expertise and extensive experience in the collection of primary data. She has a particular specialty in studying daily stress processes, and has directed or co-directed three large studies using daily questionnaires or interviews to study stress processes (including the National Survey of Daily Experiences).  These studies, all of which focus on processes and stress and support within families have resulted in multiple published papers co-authored with Niall Bolger, David Almeida, and Joyce Serido) in the Journal of Marriage and Family and the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

For many years, Wethington has taught HD/SOC 250 Families and the Life Course, the undergraduate foundation class in family and life course studies in both the Department of Human Development and the Department of Sociology. The class would provide a venue for translating the work we accomplish in the institute into exciting educational opportunities for undergraduates at Cornell. Each year, the course attracts 250-280 students, from all of the undergraduate colleges. 

G52 Matha Van
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853