Clifton E. BarberProfessor Emerit

Since receiving a PhD in human development and family studies from the Pennsylvania State University, I have held faculty and administrative positions at both Colorado State University (1978-2004) and Washington State University (2005-09). I joined the faculty in the School of Human Ecology in 2009, and I have an integrated appointment as a professor in the Human Development & Family Studies department and a specialist in aging for UW Cooperative Extension Family Living Programs. I am currently one of several faculty in the School of Human Ecology with an integrated Extension appointment.

Most of my research has been in the field of family gerontology, wherein I have studied the experiences of individuals and families as they cope with transitions and periods of stress during middle and later life. Recent research focuses on Hispanic families caring for older relatives and explores how cultural marginality, conflict, and religiosity affect the well-being of family caregivers.  My research, teaching, and Extension work have been nationally recognized through the awarding of “fellow” status in the Gerontological Society of America, a 2005 distinguished teaching award from the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education, and a 2013 Lifetime Extension Career Achievement Award from the Division of Family & Consumer Sciences, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


My research has centered on aging in the context of intergenerational family relationships, with a particular focus on family caregiving. Published work in this area includes studies of coping styles and strategies employed by adult children in caring for aged parents, predictors of subjective and objective burden in caring for loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, comparisons of older husbands and wives caring for dependent spouses in in-home versus institutional settings, and the role of gender and generational relationship on caregiver outcomes. My most recent research focuses on the impact of acculturation and marginalization on the well-being of Mexican American caregivers and the role of religiosity in Hispanic families caring for elderly parents.

UW Division of Extension

As will also be the case nationally, Wisconsin’s elderly population is projected to more than double by 2035, when 22% of the state’s residents will be age 65 or older. Population aging will impact families, communities, and places of employment. Because most people desire to age in place, population aging poses the challenge of creating environments that are “aging-friendly.” My current engagement activities center on helping communities assess the extent to which they are aging-friendly places where people can grow old without having to relocate. I am also involved in providing resources designed to help employers develop workplace environments that accommodate the needs of employees who often struggle to balance work and the responsibilities involved in caring for elderly loved ones who are frail and dependent.

In support of these initiatives, I maintain two websites for UW Cooperative Extension Family Living Programs: (1) Creating Aging-Friendly Communities in Wisconsin, and (2) Balancing Work and Family Care of Older Persons. In connection with my Aging-Friendly Communities website, I often co-present (with county Extension educators) workshops designed to serve as a catalyst in spawning community action. I was also part of a team of Extension educators in Wisconsin that developed the Employed Family Caregiver Survey. A third Extension website, Grandparenting Today, provides resources for grandparents caring for grandchildren.

Photo of Cliff Barber.


  • Human Development & Family Studies