Press releases – February 2016

 

Feb 22 2016
11:13

Sociologists at Goethe University Frankfurt take a close look at elderly men’s role in childcare.

Granddad of his own free will

FRANKFURT. The number of families in which both parents work is increasing. But who looks after the children when the nursery school is closed? Female child minders and surrogate grandmas are very popular, but is childcare an appealing activity for men too? A pre-study at the Department of Sociology is examining the phenomenon of “surrogate granddads”.

A man pushing a pram through the park: 40 years ago this sight would still have turned heads in Germany. This has fundamentally changed, thanks to new gender roles. Today, many men not only play a different part as fathers, but also in their role as grandfathers. But what happens when there is no sign of any grandchildren coming along? For some men, the want to help bring up, play with and spend time with a child, such as was never possible before, might be a reason to act as “surrogate granddad” in another family. But other reasons are also conceivable.

A research project, led by Birgit Blättel-Mink, Professor of Sociology at Goethe University Frankfurt, and Alexandra Rau, Professor of Social Work at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences, aims to shed light on this to date hardly explored topic. The project is funded by the Hessen State Ministry of Higher Education, Research and the Arts in the framework of its gender research activities. Blättel-Mink is also Director of the Cornelia Goethe Center for Women’s and Gender Studies (CGC) of Goethe University Frankfurt. Sociologist Luigi Wenzl (29) is in charge of the project’s implementation. His theory: The “Surrogate Granddad Phenomenon” could indeed become more widespread in future.

But on what scale does this social phenomenon already occur? Is it above all men who feel that they did not contribute sufficiently to raising their own children? Or do surrogate granddads see it as an opportunity to supplement their pension with a little side job? The topic could thus be relevant for three major sociological debates of the present day: For the debate on the compatibility of family and career and childcare shortfalls in families, for the debate on (re-)activating “younger seniors” for services to society and finally for the debate on precarious employment relationships which do not allow sufficient provision for old age.

Luigi Wenzl has investigated 28 projects which put “honorary” surrogate or voluntary grandparents in touch with families. In the next step, detailed interviews are being held with the surrogate granddads identified and – for the purpose of comparison – with a few surrogate grandmas. “According to our initial assessment, enabling factors are the lack of own grandchildren, an interest in bonding emotionally with a child, the wish to stay young by being in touch with children and at the same time to allow children the experience of being in contact with ‘older’ people”, concludes Wenzl from the first interviews. “But some older people also have the feeling they need to do something to counter ‘modern’ upbringing”, adds Birgit Blättel-Mink, whereby the “surrogate granddads” interviewed wanted to be seen solely as organizers of recreational activities and not as child rearers.

Deviating views on the tasks of a surrogate granddad can, however, lead to difficulties and tension. The study also aims to illuminate how parents and surrogate granddads negotiate their different requirements and opinions. It already became clear to Luigi Wenzl from his first interviews that it is often only through their partners that men are introduced to caring for other people’s children. And some do indeed then shy away from it: In public perception there is still something rather suspicious about older men looking after children.

 

Further information:

http://www.fb03.uni-frankfurt.de/soziologie/bblaettel-mink

Luigi Wenzl, Email: lwenzl@em.uni-frankfurt.de

 

 

Feb 22 2016
10:44

“Children's Worlds” study asked eight-year-old children in 16 countries about their well-being for the very first time

How do children feel about their lives?

FRANKFURT/ZURICH. Over 17,000 eight-year-old children in 16 countries on four continents were asked about their experiences and their views on their lives. No survey of this age group has ever before been undertaken. The second report on the “Children's Worlds” study, which was published recently, reveals important results which can be used to improve children’s lives throughout the whole world. The Jacobs Foundation in Zurich financed the research work on which this report is based and has announced that it will also support the next stage. The new survey of children of between eight and twelve years of age will begin in 2017 and again cover an even larger number of countries.

The views of young children are rarely the subject of research. The “Children’s Worlds” study has closed this gap. The survey asked children about all the important aspects of their lives, including family and home life, friends, money and possessions, school, local environment, time use, personal well-being, view on children’s rights and their general contentment. “This is the first opportunity we have had to compare children’s lives so comprehensively from the perspective of the children themselves”, says Sabine Andresen of Goethe University Frankfurt, one of the principal investigators. “Children perceive the world around them very precisely and we can see who feels compromised in what areas.”

Most of the eight-year-old children in the 16 countries examined were content with their lives and their situation, but there was a minority (about 6% of the children) who reported a lower level of well-being. The percentage of children with a lower sense of well-being varied from under 3% in Colombia and Romania to over 9% in Ethiopia, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Simon Sommer, Head of Research at the Jacobs Foundation, said: “This project is pioneering. The report concentrates – for the very first time – on the opinions of eight-year-old children with regard to their lives and personal well-being. The Jacobs Foundation will continue to support “Children´s Worlds”, as we are convinced that the study delivers unique and valuable information for everyone who has a special understanding for and an interest in the lives of children and adolescents and who devotes themselves to improving their lives and prospects.”

Safety

Most of the children interviewed said that they felt perfectly safe at home, at school and in their local environment. However, 4% of the children reported that they did not feel safe at home, 4% of those interviewed did not feel safe at school and 9% did not agree that they felt safe in their neighbourhood and local environment. Although it might seem at first that these percentages are low, they nevertheless equate to a large group of the youngest schoolchildren whose feeling of safety - of all things - is restricted.

School life – Differences between boys and girls

Most children (62%) said that they liked going to school. This is far higher than amongst the 10-year-old children interviewed (52%) or the 12-year-olds (42%). Going to school becomes less popular with each age group. But the country comparison is revealing too: Children in Algeria and Ethiopia like going to school most, whilst the percentage of children who do not like going to school is comparatively high in Germany, South Korea and the UK. In some countries, including Israel and six European countries, girls have a more positive attitude to school than boys.

Bullying and violence at school

A large number of children (41%) reported that they had been left out by their classmates or hit by other pupils (48%). Such experiences were more frequent amongst eight-year-old children than in the two older groups of participants in the survey. The percentage of children who had experienced violence was highest in Estonia, the UK and Germany, and lowest in South Korea. Feelings of being left out by classmates were highest in the UK and Romania and particularly low in South Korea and Ethiopia.

Knowledge of children’s rights

Almost half the children (46%) stated that they knew about children’s special rights. This was less than amongst the 10 to 12-year-old children interviewed (58 %). Children in Colombia were the best informed about children’s rights (73%). All the same, in Turkey, Ethiopia, Romania and Norway over half the eight-year-old children said that they knew their rights. Professor Asher Ben-Arieh, Study Leader and Co-chairman of the ISCI (International Society for Child Indicators), commented: “This is the first time that we have heard from almost 20,000 eight-year-old children about their activities, feelings and wishes. This remarkable achievement teaches us above all that children know more about their life than anyone else and that all attempts to improve it should always include and take into account their opinions.”

The “Children's Worlds” project will include further countries in its future research work, such as Indonesia, Finland and Italy. The third study will start with the first surveys in September 2017 and the new findings will be published in 2019.

The Children's Worlds Study

Children's Worlds, the International Survey of Children's Well-Being (ISCWeB), is a worldwide research survey on children's subjective well-being. The study aims to collect solid and representative data on children's lives and daily activities, their time use and in particular on their own perceptions and evaluations of their well-being. The purpose is to improve children's well-being by creating awareness among children, their parents and their communities, but also among opinion leaders, decision makers, professionals and the general public.

The current wave of the survey was funded by the Jacobs Foundation. It has so far been completed with over 56,000 children in three age groups (8, 10 and 12 years old) in 17 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, Israel, Malta, Nepal, Norway, Poland, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and the UK.

The full report, a summary and supplementary material can be viewed and downloaded at the project website: www.isciweb.org     

Media contact for the “Children's World” study in Germany: Professor Dr. Sabine Andresen, Goethe University Frankfurt, S.Andresen@em.uni-frankfurt.de

Media enquiries for the Jacobs Foundation, Zurich: Alexandra Güntzer, alexandra.guentzer@jacobsfoundation.org and for general research questions: Simon Sommer, Head of Research, simon.sommer@jacobsfoundation.org

 

The Jacobs Foundation is active worldwide in the support of children’s and young people’s development. It was established in 1989 by entrepreneur Klaus J. Jacobs in Zurich, Switzerland. The Jacobs Foundation finances research projects, intervention programmes and scientific institutions with a budget of about 40 million Swiss francs per year. It aims to meet the highest demands in scientific work and provide support for convincing research activities. In the last three years, the Jacobs Foundation has supported the “Children's Worlds” study by providing funding to the amount of € 850.000 and recently announced that it will award a grant of € 250.000 for the third and expanded wave of the study.

 

Feb 15 2016
15:18

Patient Safety Movement Foundation presents award to Professor Kai Zacharowski

Humanitarian Award for Frankfurt-based physician

The Patient Safety Movement Foundation has set itself the objective of noticeably reducing the number of preventable patient deaths in hospitals worldwide by 2020. That is why each year at the World Patient Safety, Science and Technology Summit it acknowledges the best ideas and initiatives with the Humanitarian Award. One of the four award winners for 2015 is Professor Kai Zacharowski, Director of the Department of Anaesthesia, Intensive Care Medicine and Pain Therapy at University Hospital Frankfurt. He received the award in California at the end of January for his research on a new patient blood management system. The system permits an economical use of blood as a limited resource whilst at the same time raising patient safety. Alongside Professor Zacharowski, American President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received a joint award for their commitment to establishing broad access to healthcare. The other award winners are Senator Barbara Boxer and patient activist Alicia Cole.

Innovative concept with great potential

Every third patient admitted to hospital for an operation suffers from anaemia. This leads to an increased risk of complications during both surgery and aftercare, since the red corpuscles transport less oxygen due to a decreased concentration of haemoglobin. To date, patients were given donated blood transfusions in such cases. These can, however, lead to additional health complications, such as kidney damage.

The patient blood management system developed by Professor Zacharowski and his team has the potential to avert harm to patients in countless cases. The model comprises three pillars: Those patients are identified who have a high risk of anaemia. The haemoglobin level of these patients is increased prior to the operation by intravenous administration of iron. This minimizes the likelihood of them reaching a threshold after the operation which would make a blood transfusion necessary.

“With the aid of this approach, blood transfusions can be reduced by up to 20 percent and the risk of acute kidney damage and costs can be lowered – without endangering the patient’s health through potential anaemia. Drawing attention to this fact, even if it calls into question hospital routine up to now, is my job as the patient’s advocate”, says Professor Zacharowski.

Professor Patrick Meybohm, his senior consultant, adds: “Here in the USA we have been given a platform for our results, which can trigger a fundamental change in the perception of anaemia and its therapy.”

 

Feb 9 2016
11:31

39 percent of the Congo Basin is endangered or greatly endangered

Hunting pressure on forest animals in Africa is on the increase

FRANKFURT. Since about 25 years, animal species in West and Central Africa are no longer being hunted solely for the purpose of local self-sufficiency, but increasingly also for sale in urban areas several hundred kilometres away. As a consequence, many populations have dramatically decreased or already disappeared altogether. A team of European researchers led by Goethe University Frankfurt has now predicted hunting pressure for the Congo Basin and produced a detailed map, which could help in regional planning.

The hunted species are mostly mammals, but also some reptile and bird species. In many areas, they are the only cheap and easily available source of animal protein for the rural community. However, the commercialization of the bushmeat trade has meanwhile led also to the “Empty Forest Syndrome” in forest ecosystems throughout Africa. The sale of bushmeat allows the rural community to purchase products or services which go beyond simple self-sufficiency. This has far-reaching ecological consequences, which ultimately also threaten the existence of the rural population. For example, with the disappearance of the herbivorous animals which serve as seed carriers, the forests disappear in the long term too.

The research team led by Bruno Streit analysed reports published between 1990 and 2007 on the bushmeat on sale on markets in the Congo Basin (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo). On the basis of the number of carcasses openly on sale and the catchment area of the markets, they calculated the annual harvest rates of bushmeat per square kilometre. They then correlated these figures with socio-economic variables, such as population density, the density of the road network and the distance of the markets to the nature reserves. In a further step, they defined different classes of potential hunting pressure.

“For a quarter of the total area, we calculated a level of hunting pressure which was somewhat lower”, explains Professor Bruno Streit of the Institute of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity at Goethe University Frankfurt. “However, our prediction foresees severe to very severe hunting pressure across 39 percent of the area of the Congo Basin. This is the case above all in areas with a very dense network of traffic routes, often in proximity to nature reserves”, continues Stefan Ziegler of the WWF. Thus the internationally famous Virunga National Park and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo also lie in such areas.

The map produced by the researchers could help to support sustainable regional planning by ensuring that - as far as possible - roads do not carve up areas rich in wildlife. The map also identifies neuralgic points where the potential for hunting pressure is particularly high. Anti-poaching measures should concentrate on these zones.

The report stemmed from a joint project between Goethe University Frankfurt, experts in remote sensing at the University of Würzburg, and conservationists from WWF Germany.

 

 

Publication: Stefan Ziegler, John E. Fa, Christian Wohlfart, Bruno Streit, Stefanie Jacob and Martin Wegmann: Mapping Bushmeat Hunting Pressure in Central Africa, in: Biotropica, 29 Januar 2016 DOI: 10.1111/btp.12286; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/btp.12286/abstract

 

Pictures for dowload: www.uni-frankfurt.de/59967888

 

Information: Prof. Bruno Streit, Institute for Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, Campus Riedberg, Tel.: (069) 798-42160, -42162, streit@bio.uni-frankfurt.de.

 

Feb 5 2016
09:25

Researchers in Frankfurt observe later root development cell by cell in a high-tech microscope

How roots grow

FRANKFURT. In contrast to animals, plants form new organs throughout their entire life, i.e. roots, branches, flowers and fruits. Researchers in Frankfurt wanted to know to what extent plants follow a pre-determined plan in the course of this process. In the renowned journal “Current Biology”, they describe the growth of secondary roots of thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana). They have observed it cell by cell in a high-tech optical microscope and analysed it with computer simulations. Their conclusion: root shape is determined by a combination of genetic predisposition and the self-organization of cells.

“Our work shows the development of the complex organ of the secondary root with unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution”, says Professor Ernst H. K. Stelzer of the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. He is the inventor of the high-resolution and gentle light sheet fluorescence microscopy, with which the researchers recorded the development of secondary roots from the first cell division to their emergence out of the main root. For over 64 hours, they first logged the fluorescence signals from cell nuclei and plasma membrane every five minutes and then identified and followed all cells involved in root development.

The secondary roots stem from a variable number of “founder cells”, of which some contribute to the development. The shape of the secondary roots and the respective growth curves show great similarities. “We classified the cell divisions on the basis of their spatial orientation in order to find out when new cell lines and cell layers form”, explains Daniel von Wangenheim, first author of the study. “Surprisingly, we were not able to predict on the basis of the initial spatial arrangement where exactly the future centre of the secondary root would lie.” Evidently, only the first division of the founder cells is strongly regulated, whilst the subsequent divisions do not follow any pre-determined pattern. Their behaviour is rather more adaptive. In nature, this also makes sense, for example if the roots meet with an obstacle.

In order to be able to identify the fundamental principles of secondary root development in the vast amount of data, the researchers combined methods for the quantitative analysis of cell divisions in wild and genetically modified plants (wild type and mutants) with mathematical modelling. This  was undertaken by their colleague Prof. Alexis Maizel from the University of Heidelberg. He realized that the development of the secondary root is based on a limited number of rules, which account for the growth and orientation of cells. The development of a characteristic secondary root follows the principles of self-organization, which is prevalent in nature.  Alexander Schmitz, co-author of the study, explains the non-deterministic part by the fact that organ development is robust as a result: “In this way, the roots are able to develop in a flexible and nevertheless controlled manner despite the varying arrangement of the cells and mechanical factors in the surrounding tissue.”

Publication: Daniel von Wangenheim, Jens Fangerau, Alexander Schmitz, Richard S. Smith, Heike Leitte, Ernst H.K. Stelzer, Alexis Maizel: Rules and self-organizing properties of post-embryonic plant organ cell division patterns, in: Current Biology, 28.1.2016, DOI: doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.12.047

Online publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.12.047

Video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/OffLqVUI8hE

 

Information: Prof. Dr. Ernst H. K. Stelzer, Alexander Schmitz, Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Science, Goethe University, Phone +49(0)69 798-42547 or -42551, ernst.stelzer@physikalischebiologie.de alexander.schmitz@physikalischebiologie.de