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  • Centre for Prevention and Intervention in Childhood and Adolescence (CPI)

    Campus der Universität Bielefeld
    © Universität Bielefeld

Theoretical and Methodological Alignment

Methodical Alignment

The CPI uses tools of empirical research from the entire spectrum of methods. In quantitative terms, all common study designs and statistical evaluation methods are applied. The spectrum extends from research methods that are used especially in the educational sciences, up to quantitative approaches that dominate the Health Research and the Health Services Research. The choice of the research method depends on the problem and can be both confirmatory and exploratory aligned. A special feature is that for complex evaluations in the field of educational research structural equation models were used, which can now find entrance into the area of health research at the CPI. Experience with evaluation studies consist in a comprehensive way for two- and three-point measurements (Pre-/Post-/Follow-up) with randomized allocation and different possible treatments with and without control groups.:

  • participant observation in different degrees of structuring
  • qualitative interview forms with different openness (such as semi-structured interviews, expert interviews, problem-centered interviews, ero-epic discussions, group discussions)
  • categorizing and complementary hermeneutic-reconstructive evaluation method in the interpretation group
  • qualitative type-building content analysis
  • Grounded Theory
  • integrative hermeneutical approach
  • ethnographic investigation reports.

With the creation of the Center of Prevention and Intervention the four-years third-party funded project ‘activity skills and educational competence of functional illiterates’ has been finished. The extensive empirical and theoretical-conceptual work of the project opens up various connection points of the research in literacy from the sociological perspective and define the upcoming areas of focus in the field of research with the creation of the Center of Prevention and Intervention. The significance of poor education in relation to life chances and opportunities to participate in education should be deduced from the social practice.

Particularly in the background of the research work lays the theoretical tradition of the inequality focused Social Analysis and Socialization research. Furthermore, the perspectives on the Sociology of Aging, Research of Generation and Community play a major role. Analyzing the formation of social inequality as well as its outcomes on educational opportunities and options of the utilization of human capital are the crucial points of the work.

The research field education corresponds to the CPI-conception practice and is transfer oriented. Concepts for the teacher training are developed with the central focus on the ‘matching’ of the milieu of origin and habitus of educationally disadvantaged students to the educational demands and challenges of teachers. The Clarification of corresponding evaluation mechanisms and the practical relevance for the social class gradient of educational opportunities (PISA) can be seen as a contribution to education justice. The aim is to establish and expand an advanced training across the CPI-research field of Health.

There is no unanimously accepted definition of health. The understanding of “what health is” has significantly changed over the last decades. Traditionally, definitions of health have strongly been connected with the presence / absence of a clinically diagnosed disease with health being negatively defined in terms of absence of a disease. The displacement of health from its dual position to disease has become possible with the integration of factors outside the body such as structural conditions, behaviors, or social interaction into concepts of health. This holistic approach to “what health is” has enabled to significantly extend the understanding about and to define positive concepts of health in terms of e.g. wellbeing or quality of life. The broadening of the perspective on health has gained momentum with the shift from a reductionist medical model that views health strongly associated with disease and pathogenesis to other models such as social or biopsychosocial models that associate health with e.g. physical, psychological, and social dimensions. Also, such holistic models turned the pathogenetic idea of health around by making use of salutogenetic approaches that center health by asking about factors supporting human health and well-being. In turn, the change in the understanding of health has enabled a wide range of research disciplines and professions (e.g. educational, social sciences) outside public health or health care that originally did not address health topics to raise, pick up or develop issues related to health.

There is a growing number of findings from social epidemiologythat consistently have identified differences in the health status between populations or individuals along the socio-economic gradient. In rich as well as in poor countries, patternsare alike when looking at social determinants such as level of education, income or ethnicity:The more favorable the social position, the better the individual or population health outcomes. Such findingsallow for concluding that individual behaviorsthat affect health are shaped by or may act as a result of the interaction betweenan individualand his/her living conditions and social environment. Inequalities in social, environmental and economic conditions within a population impact on the risk of an individual to become diseased and on an individual’s resources to prevent diseases and to make use of health care. The impact of social structures on individual life might be revealed when health-related or psychosocial behaviors are understood as outcome of and integrated in social structures. Using this approach, the unit of analysis in health research activities should therefore not be restricted to the individual but include the socio-cultural context around an individual, too.

This conclusion can be used as an entry point to introduce research areas that focus on the analysis of unequal social structures and human socialization processes for the studies on the topic health. In doing so, such an undertaking would aim at exploring and exploitingthe diagnostic and explanatory potential of socialization research for the analysis of the population or individual health status and development. Also,connecting the health topos with socialization research gives insights and helps to clarify and take on the relevance of health-related aspects in the area of education.

Several connection lines can be identified between socialization research and health whenmechanisms of socialization are considered as a process through which patterns of health behaviorsare shaped by social structures. Desiderata for research include the interaction between health-related behaviors and social structures,issues targeting psychological vulnerability and resilience, the acquisition of social skills and the extent to an individual’s participation in social activities, and questions asking about individual aspirations and future time perspectives.

The Center for Prevention and Intervention in Childhood and Adolescence CPI takes this research strategy on to promote and develop its research activities focusing on health.

The basic theory frame refers to the paradigm of the inequality-oriented socialization research asking for the course of socialization processes under socially unequal initial conditions. Besides, this adjustment is regarded as problem-oriented. Therefore, social problems have priority: The social reproduction of inequalities and preventions, but also the possibilities of the democratization of the chances of participation, the development conditions of risk biographies in the educational and health sector as well as the possibilities of the prevention and intervention in childhood and adolescence.

For the higher theory orientation not only the gathering of single findings is significant, which gives explanation about the interaction effect between environmental circumstances and processes of personality development. The aim is to create a theory basis in the socialization research which is interdisciplinary and unites at the same time the different single ropes of the discussion about the structures of personality development. For this reason the unification of psychological, sociological and educational research is addressed as a project in socialization research in the 1960s and 70s already internationally leading to major advances in research. Nowadays the focus is on describing specific features of the processes of socialization with the help of a unifying theory construction. We distinguish between three areas of responsibility targeting on theory education:

1. The mediation process in which social influences collude in interaction with the individual.

This is the real centre of the socialization research: The interaction process between the acting individual and the social and material surrounding structures, which initiate processes of individual development and change the environment of socialization.

2. The development of the personality characteristics which are adapted in environmental circumstances and thereby direct to a reproduction of characteristics considered as typical in a respective socialization arrangement.

This aspect focuses on social reproductive aspects and is inalienable for the analysis of social unequal chances of participation. A concentration on the unification of knowledge is aimed which is given in the social and developing psychology (especially in the agency research) as well as in the social-scientific research (disposition research). The aim of this unification is to create a theory of the socialization capable to include these reproductive effects. Moreover, basic approaches concerning this topic are preliminary works for a theory of the arrangements or a dispositional socialization theory of the CPI

3. The development of atypical personality characteristics interrupting reproductive processes. This does not lead to an adaptation on socialization arrangement but rather to a reflection of individual processes of development and to the increase of autonomy and emancipation potentials.

This aspect connects to a long discussion line in the socialization research in which since the 1960s processes have been asked opening individual and social autonomy potentials by processes of socialization. For the socialization research this aspect of the reversal of effects of bare social reproduction is undoubtedly inalienable. On the one hand, the enlargement of scopes of action and the reflection of own development in a structure characteristic of personal development. On the other hand, the focus is on the change of social prevailing conditions which again can be understood as a function of the exhaustion of individual autonomy potentials.

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