Professor Oltmanns is interested in the assessment of personality and personality pathology, particularly with regard to discrepancies between people’s descriptions of themselves and the ways in which they are described by others.
Oltmanns' lab is conducting a prospective, longitudinal study of the stability and impact of personality pathology in later life, known as the SPAN Study. The project is concerned with connections among personality traits, personality disorders, health, and social adjustment in a representative, community-based sample of 1,600 persons between the ages of 55 and 64---those approaching the challenges of later life. It will identify ways in which personality and personality disorders influence the ability to adapt successfully to important life transitions. The SPAN Study includes a diverse sample of participants; approximately two thirds are white and one third are black. Their data reflect the physical health disparities that would be expected based on the existing literature. Investigators working with SPAN data are now exploring psychosocial and biological variables that may help us understand the origins and maintenance of these disparities.
The SPAN Study has also become interested in the empirical investigation of mechanisms that may be responsible for the fact that health outcomes and racial health disparities are perpetuated across generations. More specifically, we are studying ways in which stress may perpetuate adverse mental and physical health outcomes as well as racial health disparities across three generations. This aspect of our research is being done in collaboration with affiliated labs directed by Ryan Bogdan, Joshua Jackson, and Darrell Hudson (at Washington University) and Jennifer Tackett (at Northwestern University).