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Karen L Fingerman

Professor, Research Lab Director (Academic)
Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, Population Research Center

Sonia Wolf Wilson Regents Administrative Professorship in Human Ecology (Holder)


Phone: 512-471-0618

Office Location
SEA 2.326

B.A., Harvard/Radcliffe College (1987)
M.A., University of Michigan (1990)
Ph.D., University of Michigan (1993)
Postdoctoral Fellow School of Medicine Stanford University (1993-1994)

Research Interests

Karen Fingerman is the Sonia Wilson Professor of Human Ecology and Professor of Human Development & Family Sciences at UT Austin. She studies adult development and aging, in particular social and emotional aspects of aging and assesssments in daily life. She is currently the Director of the Texas Longevity Consortium and the Research Director of the NIA-funded Center on Aging & Population Sciences. 

Dr. Fingerman has conducted research and published clost to 200 papers and chapters regarding parents and children, in-law ties, romantic partners, grandparents and grandchildren, friends, and peripheral social ties. 

She is currently working on an NIA-funded study of of caregivers for older adults experiencing Lewy Body Dementia.  Lewy Body Dementia is the second most common cause of dementia, but has received little research attention compared to Alzheimer's Disease. Caregiving in this context is extremely challenging. This study will use Ecological Momentary Assessments and other assessments to examine these caregivers' experiencers in daily life. She has also been studying young adults who provide care to aging relatives and is collaborating on research addressing hearing aid use in late life. 

She continues to work on her National Institute on Aging funded  Family Exchanges Study, a longitudinal study involving middle-aged adults, their romantic partners, grown children and aging parents. The National Institute of Aging also funded her ongoing Daily Experiences and Well-being Study, examining older adults' social relationships, and daily emotional, cognitive and physical activity using ecologically valid methodologies including EMA surveys, actical measurements of physical activity and Electronically Activated Recorders (EAR) to capture conversations and sound throughout the day. 

She received the Baltes Award for Distinguished Research Achievement in Psychology and Aging, from the American Psychological Association in 2022. She received the BSS Distinguished Mentorship in Gerontology Award from the Gerontological Society of America in 2020, the CNS  Teaching Excellence Award in 2020 and a Faculty Teaching Award from the Diversity and Inclusion committee of the CNS student council in 2019. She also recently took second place in the Great Blanton Bake Off Amateur Division 2024. 


Select Publications

*graduate student or postdoctoral fellow

Zhang, S.*, Zhou, Z.*, Fingerman, K. L., Birditt, K. S., (in press). Loneliness and mode of social contact in late life. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B

Leger, K. A., Kim, Y., Zhang, S*., Goa, S.*, & Fingerman K. L. (in press). Daily electronic media use and sleep in late life. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Science.

Zhou, Z.*, Birditt, K. S., Leger, K. A., & Fingerman, K. L. (in press). Daily worry, rumination, and sleep in late life. Journal of Psychosomatic Research.

Zhou, Z.*, Zhang, S.*, Kim, Y. K., Birditt, K. S., & Fingerman, K. L. (2024). Need to belong, daily social engagement, and transient loneliness in late life. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Ng, Y. T.*, Han, S. H., Fingerman, K. L., & Birditt, K.S. (2024). Do friends get under the skin?. Everyday social encounters and cardiovascular functioning among Black and White adults in the United States. Health Psychology, 43(2), 142-153. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0001341

Fingerman, K. L., Zhou, Z*., & Gao, S.* (2024). Intergeneratonal ties in later life. Current Opinion in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2023.101743

Fingerman, K. L., Zhou, Z.*, Huo, M., Luong, G., & & Birditt, K. S. (2024). Enduring bonds: Duration and contact in close relationships in late life. The Gerontologist, 64, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnad091

Brown, C. J.*, Jeon, S., Ng, Y. T.*, Lee, S., Fingerman, K. L., & Charles, S. T. (2023). Switching it up: Activity diversity and cognitive functioning in later life. Psychology and Aging, 38(6), 483–493. https://doi.org/10.1037/pag0000770 (Editor’s choice)

Zhang, S.*, Fingerman, K. L., & Birditt, K. S. (2023). Detecting narcissism from older adults’ daily language use: A machine learning approach. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Science, 78(9), 1493-1500. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbad061

Kim, Y. K.* & Fingerman, K. L. (2022). Daily social media use, social ties, and emotional well-being in later life. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 39(6), 1794-1813. https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075211067254

Fingerman, K. L., Kim, Y. K.*, Zhang, S.* Ng, Y. T.*, Huo, M. M., & Birditt, K.S. (2022). Television viewing, physical activity, and loneliness in late life. The Gerontologist, 62(7) 1006-1017. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnab120

Bui, C. N.*, Kim, K., & Fingerman, K. L. (2022). Support now care later: intergenerational support exchanges and older parents’ care expectations. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Social Sciences, 77(7), 1315–1324. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbac059

Fingerman, K. L., Kim, Y. K.*, Zhang, S.*, Ng, Y. T.*, Birditt, K.S. (2022). Late life in the living room: Room decor, functional limitations, and personality. The Gerontologist, 62(4), 519-529. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnab093  (Editor’s choice article)

Fingerman, K. L., Ng, Y. T.*, Zhang, S.*, Britt, K.,* Colera, G.*, Birditt, K. S., & Charles, S. T. (2021). Living alone during COVID-19: Social contact and emotional well-being among older adults. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Social Science. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbaa200

Huo, M., Ng, Y. T.*, Birditt, K. S., & Fingerman, K. L. (2021). Empathy and coping: Older adults’ interpersonal tensions and mood throughout the day. Gerontology. 67, 101–111. https://doi.org/10.1159/000511418

Ng, Y. T.*, Huo, M., Gleason, M. E., Neff, L.A., Charles, S. T., & Fingerman, K. L. (2021). Friendships in old age: Daily encounters and emotional well-being. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Social Science, 76(3), 551-562. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbaa007

Xie, B., Charness, N., Fingerman, K. L., Kaye, J., Kim, M. T., & Khurshid, A. (2020). When going digital becomes a necessity: Ensuring older adults’ needs for information, services, and social inclusion during COVID-19. Journal of Aging & Social Policy. doi: 10.1080/08959420.2020.1771237

Kim, Y.,* Kim, K., Boerner, K., Birditt, K. S., Zarit, S. H., & Fingerman, K. L. (2019). Recent parental death and relationships between midlife adults and their own children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 81, 616–630. doi:10.1111/jomf.12549

Fingerman, K. L., Huo, M.*, Graham, J. L.*, Kim, K., & Birditt, K. S. (2018). A family affair: Family typologies of life problems and midlife well-being. The Gerontologist, 58, 1054-1064. doi:10.1093/geront/gnx131

Huo, M.*, Graham, J. L.,* Kim, K., Zarit, S. H., & Fingerman, K. L. (2018). Aging parents’ disabilities and daily support exchanges with middle-aged children. The Gerontologist, 58, 872–882. doi:10.1093/geront/gnx144

Heid, A. R., Kim, K., Zarit, S. H., Birditt, K. S., & Fingerman, K. L. (2018).    Relationship tensions and mood: Adult children’s daily experience of aging parents’ stubbornness. Personal Relationships, 25, 87-102. doi: 10.1111/pere.12229

Jensen, A. C., Whiteman, S. D., & Fingerman, K. L. (2018). “Can’t live with or without them”: Transitions and young adults’ sibling relationships. Journal of Family Psychology, 32, 385–395. doi:10.1037/fam0000361

Hartnett, C. S., Fingerman, K. L., & Birditt, K. S. (2018). Without the ties that bind: Young adults who lack active parental relationships. Advances in Life Course Research, 35, 103-113.

Fingerman, K. L., Huo, M., Kim, K., & Birditt, K. S. (2017). Coresident and noncoresident young adults’ daily experiences with parents. Emerging Adulthood, 5, 337–350. doi:10.1177/2167696816676583

Birditt, K. S., Manalel, J. A., Kim, K., Zarit, S. H., & Fingerman, K. L. (2017). Daily interactions with aging parents and adult children: Associations with negative affect and diurnal cortisol. Journal of Family Psychology, 31, 699–709. doi:10.1037/fam0000317 PMCID: PMC5608619

Fingerman, K. L., Cheng, Y.-P.*, Kim, K.*, Fung, H. H., Han, G., Lang, F. R., Lee, W.*, & Wagner, J. (2016). Parental involvement with college students in Germany, Hong Kong, Korea, and the United States. Journal of Family Issues, 37, 1384-1411.

Fingerman, K. L., Cheng, Y. P., Birditt, K. S., & Zarit, S. (2012). Only as happy as the least happy child: Multiple grown children’s problems and successes and middle-aged parents’ well-being. The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 67, 184-193. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbr086 PMCID 3410695. PMCID: 3410695

Fingerman, K. L., Cheng, Y. P., Wesselmann, E. D., Zarit, S., Furstenberg, F., & Birditt, K. S. (2012). Helicopter parents and landing pad kids: Intense parental support of grown children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 880-896. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2012.00987.x PMCID: Journal in Process

Fingerman, K. L., Gilligan, M., VanderDrift, L., & Pitzer, L. M. (2012). In-law relationships before and after marriage: Husbands, wives, and their mothers-in-law. Research on Human Development, 9, 106-125. PMCID: 3686301

Fingerman, K. L., Pitzer, L. M., Chan, W., Birditt, K. S., Franks, M. M., & Zarit, S. (2011). Who gets what and why: Help middle-aged adults provide to parents and grown children. The Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 66B, 87-98. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbq009 PMCID: 3031309

Fingerman, K. L. & Charles, S. T. (2010). It takes two to tango: Why older people have the best relationships. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19, 172-176. doi: 10.1177/0963721410370297

    • 2024  Second Place Great Blanton Bake Off

    • 2022   Baltes Award for Distinguished Research Achievement in Psychology and Aging, American Psychological Association

    • 2020  Distinguished Mentor Award, BSS Section Gerontological Society of America

    • 2019  Executive Management and Leadership Program Fellow, UT Austin

    • 2019  Faculty Teaching Award, Natural Sciences Student Council Diversity and Inclusion Committee, UT Austin
    • 2019  Top 3 most mentioned article Innovations in Aging: Fingerman, K. L. (2017). Millennials and their parents: Implications of the new young adulthood for midlife adults. doi:10.1093/geroni/igx026
    • 2012, 2018  Gerontologist, Super Reviewer Award
    • 2012 Elected Fellow, American Psychological Association
    • 2010-2011 Academic Leadership Program, Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC),
    • Purdue University Fellow
    • 2008-2011 Berner Hanley Professor in Gerontology, Purdue University
    • 2006 Star Gerontologist Award, Center on Aging and the Life Course, Purdue University
    • 2003-2008 Berner Hanley University Scholar, Purdue University
    • 2005 Harshman Visiting Lecturer, Guelph, Canada
    • 2005 Elected Fellow, American Psychological Society
    • 2002 Elected Fellow, Gerontological Society of America
    • 2000-2002 Brookdale National Fellow, Brookdale Foundation
    • 1999 Margret Baltes Award for Early Career Achievement in Social and Behavioral Gerontology, Gerontological Society of America
    • 1998 Springer Award for Early Career Achievement in Research on Adult Development and Aging, American Psychological Association
    • 1997 Schreyer Institute Award for Innovative Teaching, Pennsylvania State University
    • 1988-1991 National Science Foundation Fellowship for Graduate Study
    • 1989 Barbara Oleshansky Research Prize, University of Michigan
    • 1987-1988 Rotary Scholar, Nairobi, Kenya
    • 1987 Harvard University Undergraduate Commencement Speaker