Biography Curriculum Vitae Recent Grants

Aloen L. Townsend, PhD

Ralph S. and Dorothy P. Schmitt Professor

PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
MA, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
BA, Occidental College
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of
Applied Social Sciences

Room 108
Case Western Reserve University
11235 Bellflower Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44106
Phone 216.368.0373
Fax 216.368.8670


University Center on Aging and Health

Department of Sociology


Adult development and aging, research methods and statistics, physical and mental health, families and formal service systems



  • SSBT 508 Adult Development and Dysfunction


  • SASS 615 Social Statistics and Data Analysis
  • SASS 618 Measurement Issues in Quantitative Research

Recent Publications

Curl, A., & Townsend, A. (In press).  A multilevel dyadic study of the impact of retirement on self-rated health: Does retirement predict worse health in married couples? Research on Aging.

Mehrotra, C., Townsend, A., & Berkman, B.  (In press).  Evaluation of a training program in aging research for social work faculty.  Educational Gerontology.

Lim, J-W., & Townsend, A. (in press).  Cross-ethnicity measurement equivalence of family coping for breast cancer survivors.  Research on Social Work Practice.

Townsend, A. (in press).  Innovative research methods for family gerontology.  In R. Blieszner & V. Bedford (Eds.), Handbook of Families and Aging (2nd ed., pp. 61-88) Santa Barbara, CA:  ABC-Clio (Praeger).

Peek, M. K., Stimpson, J., Townsend, A., & Markides, K. (in press). Well-being in older Mexican American spouses.  The Gerontologist.

Townsend, A., Ishler, K., Vargo, E., Shapiro, B., Pitorak, E., & Matthews, C. (in press).  The FACES project: An academic-community partnership to improve end-of-life care for families.  Journal of Gerontological Social Work (Special Issue on “Partnering with the Community through Research and Curricular Innovation”).

Pot, A. M., Zarit, S., Twisk, J., & Townsend, A. (in press).  Transitions in caregivers’ use of paid home help: Associations with stress appraisals and well-being.  Psychology and Aging.

Min, M., Townsend, A., Miller, B., & Rovine, M.  (2005).  Supplemental private health insurance and depressive symptoms in older married couples.  International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 61, 293-312.

Jarrott, S., Zarit, S., Stephens, M. A., Townsend, A., & Greene, R. (2005).  Instrumental help and caregivers’ distress: Effects of change in informal and formal help.  American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, 20, 181-190.

Norton, T., Gupta, A., Stephens, M. A., Martire, L., & Townsend, A. (2005).  Stress, rewards, and change in the centrality of women’s family and work roles: Mastery as a mediator. Sex Roles, 52, 325-335.

Miller, D., & Townsend, A. (2005).  Urban hassles as chronic stressors and adolescent mental health: The Urban Hassles Index.  Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 5, 85-94.

Rodriguez LeSage, M., & Townsend, A. (2004).   Acculturation and depressive symptoms in Mexican American couples.  Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 10, 131-154.

Miller, B., Townsend, A., & Ishler, K. (2004).  Change in marital dissatisfaction, health, and depression in older married couples.  Journal of Mental Health and Aging, 10, 65-77.

Atienza, A., Stephens, M. A., & Townsend, A.  (2004).  Role stressors as predictors of changes in women’s optimistic expectations.  Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 471-484.

Gaugler, J., Jarrott, S., Zarit, S., Stephens, M. A., Townsend, A., & Greene, R. (2003).  Respite for dementia caregivers: The effects of adult day service use on caregiving hours and care demands.  International Psychogeriatrics, 15, 37-58.

Zarit, S., Stephens, M. A., Townsend, A., Femia, E., & Greene, R. (2003).  Give day care a chance to be effective: A commentary (Commentary on “Evaluation of geriatric day care units: Effects on patients and caregivers” and authors’ reply).  Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 58B, P195-P196.

Gaugler, J., Zarit, S., Townsend, A., Stephens, M. A., & Greene, R. (2003).  Evaluating community-based programs for dementia caregivers: The cost implications of adult day services.  Journal of Applied Gerontology, 22, 118-133.

Gaugler, J., Jarrott, S., Zarit, S., Stephens, M.  A., Townsend, A., & Greene, R. (2003).  Adult day service use and reductions in caregiving hours: Effects on stress and psychological well-being for dementia caregivers.  International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 18, 55-62.

Atienza, A., Stephens, M. A., & Townsend, A.  (2002).  Dispositional optimism, role-specific stress, and the well-being of adult daughter caregivers. Research on Aging, 24, 193-217.

Norton, T., Stephens, M.  A., Martire, L., Townsend, A., & Gupta, A.  (2002).  Change in the centrality of women’s multiple roles: Effects of role stress and rewards. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 57B, S52-S62.

Edwards, A., Zarit, S., Stephens, M. A., & Townsend, A. (2002).  Employed family caregivers of cognitively impaired elderly: An examination of role strain and depressive symptoms.  Aging & Mental Health, 6, 55-61.

Townsend, A., Miller, B., & Guo, S. (2001).  Depressive symptomatology in middle-aged and older married couples: A dyadic analysis. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 56B, S352-S364.

Leitsch, S.,  Zarit, S., Townsend, A., & Greene, R. (2001).  Medical and social adult day service programs: A comparison of characteristics, dementia clients, and their family caregivers.  Research on Aging, 23, 473-498.

Miller, B., Townsend, A., Carpenter, E., Montgomery, R., Stull, D., & Young, R. (2001).  Social support and caregiver distress: A replication analysis. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 56B, S249-S256.

Stephens, M. A., Townsend, A., Martire, L., & Druley, J. (2001).  Balancing parent care with other roles: Interrole conflict of adult daughter caregivers. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 56B, P24-P34.

Recent Presentations

Townsend, A., Oh, Y., Ishler, K., Rose, J.  (November, 2012). Health and depressive symptomatology of aging male cancer survivors: A matched comparison design.  Poster presented at the 65th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, San Diego, CA.

Cancer, Comorbidities, and Psychosocial Quality of Life of Married Couples

Aloen L. Townsend, Ph.D. (Principal Investigator), The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
Karen F. Bowman, Ph.D. (Co-Investigator), Department of Sociology
Julia Hannum Rose, Ph.D. (Co-Investigator), School of Medicine

Funded by the Aging and Cancer Research Program (P20 CA103736),
Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, 03/2005-02/2007


Research investigating psychosocial quality of life in adults with cancer is increasing rapidly.  Yet a number of gaps have been identified in existing research: most notably, limited research on older adults, underrepresentation of minorities, limited attention to the effects of comorbid conditions, few longitudinal designs, and sparse research on the psychosocial and physical health status of family caregivers of older adults with cancer (NIH, 2001).  The proposed pilot is designed to address these gaps.  The study design is a secondary analysis of longitudinal data from married couples drawn from two large, nationally-representative surveys (the Health and Retirement Survey [HRS] and the Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest-Old Survey [AHEAD]).  HRS targeted adults aged 51-61 at baseline, whereas AHEAD targeted adults age 70 or older at baseline.  For inclusion in the pilot, baseline data must be available from both spouses. The pilot’s first goal is to examine the short-term and long-term effects of cancer and comorbid conditions on the psychosocial quality of life of married adults and their spouses.  The second goal is to investigate whether effects vary by age (or cohort), race and ethnicity, and/or socioeconomic status.  The third goal, when cancer does occur, is to examine the longitudinal effects of cancer-related characteristics (e.g., cancer site, type of treatment) on the psychosocial quality of life of married adults and their spouses. The study is grounded in social contextual theories, which argue that health and quality of life are interdependent across partners in social systems such as married couples, and social structural theories, which posit that health and quality of life vary across sociological statuses such as age, cohort, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender.  The study examines three dimensions of psychosocial quality of life: psychological (depressive symptomatology, emotional health, life satisfaction), social (marital satisfaction and enjoyment), and physical (global health, satisfaction with health, ADL impairment).  Hierarchical linear modeling and structural equation modeling will be used for analyses, reflecting the nested study design (longitudinal data nested within individuals nested within households).  Innovative features of the proposed pilot are inclusion of adults with cancer in middle age (HRS) and old age (AHEAD), in order to examine age/cohort differences; inclusion of a comparison group consisting of couples where neither spouse reports having cancer during the study; use of a dyadic design including both married cancer patients and their spouses; a multidimensional conceptualization of psychosocial quality of life; and large, nationally-representative, community-dwelling samples that include substantial numbers of minorities.  At baseline, there are 5,833 couples with interviews from both the husband and the wife.  Fourteen percent of those couples (n = 809 couples) include at least one spouse with cancer at baseline.  Newly-incident cases of cancer will be accrued during the study.

Physical Health and Emotional Distress
of Middle-Aged and Older Married Couples

Aloen L. Townsend, Principal Investigator
Baila Miller, Co-Principal Investigator
The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences

Margie Rodriguez Le Sage, Minority Scholar
School of Social Work
Michigan State University

Coping with health problems poses emotional challenges for both partners in married couples, even if only one person’s health is impaired. When both partners experience health problems, the challenges are compounded. This study investigated the link between changes in physical health and changes in emotional distress (i.e., depressive symptoms) in middle-aged and older married couples. The theoretical model was based on social contextual models of stress and well-being that emphasize interdependence between spouses. Specific aims were (1) to investigate the extent to which depressive symptoms varied over time; (2) to determine whether variability in depressive symptoms within couples was predicted by changes in one’s own physical health and by changes in the partner’s physical health, controlling for gender, age, education, and work status; and (3) to examine the extent to which variability in depressive symptoms between couples was predicted by couples’ race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. A secondary aim was to examine whether the association between physical health and depressive symptoms varied as a function of the quality of the marital relationship. Study hypotheses were tested using secondary analysis of three federally-funded, nationally-representative, multistage area probability surveys (the Health and Retirement Survey, the Asset and Health Dynamics of the Oldest-Old Survey, and the Americans’ Changing Lives Survey). The total sample was 5,423 couples across the 3 surveys (604 non-Hispanic African American couples, 220 Mexican American couples, and 4,599 non-Hispanic White couples), with 3 waves of data collection. The major contributions of the research are its delineation of the longitudinal relationship between depressive symptoms and physical health within married couples; its identification of both individual-level and couple-level characteristics that influence depression; and its inclusion of minority couples.

This research was funded by National Institute on Aging grant R01 AG17546 (04/2000-03/2003) and a National Institute on Aging Research Supplement for Underrepresented Minorities.


Principal Investigator:
Aloen L. Townsend, Ph.D. (Case Western Reserve University)
Karen Ishler, M.A. (Case Western Reserve University)
Carol Matthews, MSN, APRN (Hospice of the Western Reserve)
Elizabeth Pitorak, MSN, APRN (Hospice of the Western Reserve)
Beth Shapiro, MSSA, LISW (Hospice of the Western Reserve)
Elizabeth Vargo, MSSA, LISW (Hospice of the Western Reserve)

Funded by a Social Work Leadership Development Award from the Project on Death in America
(an initiative of the Open Society Institute, part of the Soros Foundations)

Families are an essential source of support for most adults facing death and, along with the terminally ill individual, the focus of hospice and palliative care services.  The end of life confronts families with some of the most emotionally challenging transitions they may ever have to face.  The ways in which the family responds can have profound consequences for family members’ subsequent grief and interpersonal relationships.  The family also can have a major impact on the dying individual’s quality of life and interactions with service providers.

This two-year research project (January 2003 – December 2004) was an academic-community partnership between a graduate school of social work, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, and a nationally-renowned practice site dedicated to quality end-of-life care, Hospice of the Western Reserve.  The goal was to enhance end-of-life care through improved assessment of family caregivers’ needs.  The FACES project was designed to address a critical gap: the lack of clinically relevant and scientifically sound measures for assessing family caregiver strain and resources near the end of life.

A set of 23 Likert-type statements were developed and pretested for the project, based on a review of existing instruments for measuring family caregiver strain and resources and the extensive clinical experience in hospice care of the HWR research team members.  Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 162 primary family caregivers whose relatives, age 65 or older, were receiving hospice home care services from Hospice of the Western Reserve (HWR).  “Family” was defined broadly, to include close friends and partners as well as relatives.  Caregivers responded to structured questions regarding their physical, emotional, social, financial, and spiritual strain; their general perceptions of the caregiving situation; and their internal and external resources.  Interviews were conducted by 18 HWR home care social workers, as part of an initial psychosocial assessment.   The social workers also provided their assessment of the tool’s clinical utility, through a mail questionnaire and a focus group.

Aloen Townsend in the News

  • Townsend Appointed Ralph S. and Dorothy P. Schmitt Professor; Celebration on November 3
    by Mandel School on October 16, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences is pleased to announce the appointment of Aloen L. Townsend, PhD, as the Ralph S. and Dorothy P. Schmitt Professor. A celebration in her honor will be held on November 3, 2017, at 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Community […]

  • Aloen Townsend Awarded 2016 Researcher of the Year by Ohio Association of Gerontology Education
    by Mandel School on May 26, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Aloen L. Townsend, PhD, was awarded 2016 Researcher of the Year by the Ohio Association of Gerontology Education (OAGE) at their 40th annual conference at Youngstown State University on April 15, 2016. This competitively-selected award recognizes one individual in Ohio’s aging network whose research has advanced knowledge in gerontology or supported the expansion of research […]

  • David Biegel is new chair of the doctoral program
    by Mandel School on June 5, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Dr. David E. Biegel, the Henry L. Zucker Professor of Social Work Practice, is the new chair of the Mandel School’s doctoral program effective June 1. This is his second term in this office. He takes over for Dr. Aloen Townsend, who served as the doctoral program chair for five years. In his announcement of […]