Two Fordham psychologists were recently awarded hefty grants from national agencies to conduct psychological research. Associate Professor Daniel Mroczek, Ph.D., will study the relationship between personality change and the physical and mental health in older adults and Professor Celia Fisher, Ph.D., will develop methods to help researchers measure the ability of developmentally disabled adults to consent to participate in research studies. The National Institute on Aging awarded Mroczek a five-year, $1.25 million grant while the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development awarded Fisher a three-year, $900,000 grant.
“The grant application and judgment process is very competitive,” said Mary Procidano, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of Fordham’s Department of Psychology. The National Institutes of Health, the umbrella organization for the two agencies that awarded Fordham’s grants, have received more than 25,000 award applications since 1998. Fordham’s award is almost half of what the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development gave out last year.
Awards such as these bolster the University’s reputation. But more importantly, Procidano said, “Psychological research is paramount because it can influence the way judgments are made in court, the way people deliver social services, and, at the highest level, social policy. Doing research like this is our contribution to society.” Mroczek’s study will be among the first to examine personality change in older couples.
He has been studying elderly male war veterans living in Boston for the last 10 years, and his latest research of 1,600 adults will include the veterans’ spouses. Although most research on older populations focuses on physical health and increasing life expectancy, Mroczek says his study will focus on how personality traits can precipitate or predict illnesses, such as heart disease, and how physical health impacts personality change.
Meanwhile, Fisher, the director of Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education, will explore the ethical issues involved in engaging developmentally disabled participants in research studies. This is a subject of great concern for Fisher, who has been working with the American Psychological Association to rewrite the code of ethics for mental health research and practice. Many adults without developmental disabilities consent to participate in research without understanding the risks and benefits involved. Fisher and her research team will create videos and storybooks that explain to mentally-challenged adults the risks and benefits of participating in research projects. Researchers will eventually use these tools to measure and improve the ability of developmentally disabled adults to understand and consent to participate in research, said Fisher.