"Lives in Translation: Life Course Research and Social Policies" (SLLS International Conference)

"Lives in Translation: Life Course Research and Social Policies" (SLLS International Conference)

The 5th annual conference of the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS) will take place from 9 to 11 October 2014 at the University of Lausanne. The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES is the local organiser. Call for papers and symposia is running until March 31.

Although the overall conference theme will focus on social policy this year, we welcome conference submissions from all areas of longitudinal and life course studies: physical, psychological, social developmental and ageing processes and functioning within and across life course stages from infancy to old age; methods and findings of cohort studies; other sources of longitudinal data such as panel studies and record linkage;  international comparisons; household, and income dynamics; intergenerational transfers and returns to learning; gene-environment interactions; ‘mixed’, and comparative methods; innovative methodology in design, measurement, data management, analysis and research practice (quantitative and qualitative).

Proposals are sought for three kinds of conference presentation:

  1. A symposium comprising at least 3 papers to be presented in a one and a half hour session or a series of two sessions. For each symposium suggested we require an overall abstract of no more than 300 words plus an abstract of no more than 300 words for each paper. Please provide names and professional affiliations for all presenters.
  2. An individual paper for oral presentation for which an abstract of no more than 300 words is required.**
  3. A poster presentation for which an abstract of no more than 200 words is required.

** Papers which do not fit into regular sessions may be allocated to Round Table discussion groups or presented as posters.

Please submit abstracts to Cat Westlake (cwestlake@slls.org.uk) using the form below by March 31st 2014

Abstract Submission Form

All contributors will be notified of the conference committee’s decision by May 31st 2014.

More information about the conference and conference accommodation will be posted on the SLLS website as it becomes available.

The fee for conference registration will be discounted for SLLS members so please consider joining if you have not already done so! Please visit the membership pages of this website for full details and a membership form to complete on-line.

The Society’s journal, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, will be a possible outlet for the publication of conference papers.

Photo Stramatakis©UNIL

LIVES “Doctoriales” 3rd edition will take place in Lausanne from 13 to 14 February 2014

During two days, forty-eight participants in the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES’ Doctoral School will present their thesis project, and thirty experts will comment their work. Costanzo Ranci, professor of sociology at the Polytechnic Institute of Milan, will give the opening lecture.

The fifteen sessions of LIVES 2014 “Doctoriales” will focus on a variety of topics such as work, ageing, social policy, family, education, health, unemployment, and methodological challenges in the study of life course.

The PhD students will present the progress of their research, as some of them are entering the closing stretch of their dissertation. Half the experts are LIVES senior members, the other half are invited guests coming from key disciplines (sociology, psychology, demography, social policy, etc.)

Prof. Costanzo Ranci’s opening lecture will address “Social Vulnerability in European Cities in the Age of Austerity. Structural Dynamics and the Role of Local Welfare”. His analysis draws on the results of the EU project WILCO, carried out in 2011-2012 in 10 European countries.

Photo Hugues Siegenthaler

In Switzerland, inequalities in health trajectories do not increase

On December 12, 2013 in Geneva, Stéphane Cullati presented his doctoral thesis questioning the Cumulative Advantage/Disadvantage model, which he found to be less pertinent in Switzerland than in the United States. The theorist Dale Dannefer was present to discuss the issue.

Stéphane Cullati just gained his PhD in sociology for a dissertation in the article format addressing health trajectories of the adult population living in Switzerland. A systematic review was recently published in Advances in Life Course Research. The three other papers are empirical studies using the data of the Swiss Household Panel, with different samples and methods of analysis.

His doctoral thesis confirms the influence of socio-economic factors on health trajectories. However, "in the context of Switzerland, we also find limited support for the Cumulative Advantage and Disadvantage model, suggesting this model may not be applicable to the Swiss context", possibly because of "the Swiss labor market context and the Swiss health national policy".

During his public defense on December 12 at the Centre for Interfaculty Gerontology and Vulnerabilities Studies, Stéphane Cullati received warm congratulations from the five jury members, who nonetheless submitted several questions.

Prof. Dale Dannefer, from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland (USA), said it was "an impressive dissertation and an excellent contribution to the litterature".

Within NCCR LIVES, Prof. Gilbert Ritschard described the work as "very clear", with  "advanced tools that are not easy to use". The thesis supervisor, Prof. Claudine Burton-Jeangros, also praised this contribution "at the intersection between epidemiology and social sciences", whose conclusions show that facing vulnerability, "compensation mechanisms exist".

Questions notably focused on the pertinence of self-reported health data in panel studies, and on the relatively short duration of the longitudinal follow-up (less than ten years for each of the empirical studies). So many topics to be further explored by Stéphane Cullati, who will join the International Centre for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health in London as from next Summer.

The NCCR LIVES sponsors the "Haut & Court" short film competition

The NCCR LIVES sponsors the "Haut & Court" short film competition

The UNIL-EPFL film clubs are organizing a competition of short subjects, with several prizes to be won. Two 600-franc awards will go to works produced on the theme "Bifurcations". They will be given out by the management of LIVES, a research center specialized in interdisciplinary study of life course, during the "Fécule" Festival on May 7, 2014.

The spring 2014 semester will have a cinematic focus at the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES). Largely based at the University of Lausanne, this research center has joined forces with the UNIL-EPFL film clubs to offer a season of screenings devoted to life course, an inexhaustible theme in cinema. As a bonus, the partnership will extend with the annual short film competition "Haut & Court", organized by the same film clubs, as part of the "Fécule" festival of university cultures.


The theme of the official competition is "Bifurcations", a very prevalent concept in the study of life course. It indicates those moments when a person's life changes direction due to a foreseen or unforeseen event. These forks in the road of life may appear in a family or professional setting. They can also be associated with migration or health, all of which are aspects of life of particular interest in the NCCR LIVES.

The deadline for submitting projects (short films of no more than 6 minutes) is April 18, 2014. A jury made up of film professionals and LIVES representatives will select two prizewinners, who will receive a check for 600 Swiss francs on the evening the submissions are screened, May 7 at Grange de Dorigny as part of the Fécule Festival. Another prize of 300 francs will be awarded for a third work in the "Free Subjects" category. Several in-kind prizes are also planned.

A season about life course

The series on life course will start on Wednesday, February 26, 2014, at the Le Capitole cinema in Lausanne, with a screening of Mr. Nobody by Jaco Van Dormael (2010), a science fiction movie tracing the life of a 118-year-old man who finds himself to be the last human on Earth. This kick-off – at a legendary theater in the city center – is organized by the UNIL-EPFL film clubs in collaboration with the Swiss National Film Archives. The theme of this series on life course will be introduced by Prof. Laura Bernardi, deputy director of the NCCR LIVES.

Subsequent screenings will be held every Wednesday from March 5 to May 28, alternating between EPFL and UNIL. The full program is in production and will be distributed soon. Researchers from the NCCR LIVES will be present at several of these evenings to show the link between the films and the research, and to discuss with the audience. Admission to all the events is free.

> http://cineclub.epfl.ch

> www.hautetcourt.ch

Photo Olivia Och

From principles to practice: Gender awareness sessions a great success

Virginia Valian, Professor of Psychology at the Hunter College of New York, and Denise Sekaquaptewa, Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, were guests at the universities of Geneva and Lausanne from November 27 to 29, 2013. Their mission: to provide tools for promoting equality to the hierarchies of both institutions and to other relevant environments. This initiative of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES and the universities' equality offices is now also available in audio format.

Geneva airport, Monday morning, November 25. We are waiting for Virginia Valian, ready to hold up a small name sign. Suddenly a little lady in a long dark coat appears, pulling a suitcase on rollers. Based on the photo, it looks like her: But there's no time to hold up the sign — we have to catch up quickly. Despite her jetlag, this experienced researcher is already asking questions. A bit of rest in her hotel, and in the late morning, we start linking questions with answers.

This psychology professor has not come just to say what she knows. She comes to share knowledge, to exchange, but also to understand how the advancement of women works in Switzerland, in our institutions. We talk statistics, advancement stages in university careers, the Federal Equality Program, research, and equality action plans. She very quickly understands the complexity of our system. Always very curious, and above all, wishing to connect with her audience, she asks exactly who will be attending the first workshop scheduled in two day's time. She returns to her hotel with a pile of notes and documents to sift through.

On Tuesday November 26, it's Denise Sekaquaptewa who deplanes. Tall, thin, very composed; she also observes and asks questions. We go see the meeting room, prepare the next day's session, and talk about organization of the space, as well as about equality... They leave to put the finishing touches on their presentations.

High-level participation

Wednesday, November 27, 1:15 p.m., is zero hour in room 408 of the Uni Dufour building at the University of Geneva. Twenty-seven people are there: The entire chancellor's office, the deans or their representatives, some professors, including the co-director and some researchers from the NCCR LIVES, as well as some members of the intermediary staff, were all immersed in the subject.

The two speakers depict numerous examples in several research studies on perceptions of gender differences, as well as from their own experience promoting equality. The participants ask plenty of questions, and discuss a lot during their group work.

The next day, at the University of Lausanne (UNIL), in the Château de Dorigny room, 31 people answered the same call: a dean, many professors, including the director and vice director of the NCCR LIVES, and other members of the research centre. Once again, questions burst forth, and the morning is very interactive.

That evening, after a very enthusiastic introduction by the rector of UNIL and the vice -rector for Junior Faculty Development and Diversity – also a member of LIVES – Virginia Valian addresses a larger audience, the vast majority of them women. Her talk has the same title as her bestseller released in 1998: "Why So Slow?"…

Training the trainers

Finally, on Friday, November 29, still at Lausanne, it's time for the train-the-trainer workshop, led by the two US researchers. It was attended by 40 participants from all over Switzerland who are involved in equal opportunity programs at the university, federal or cantonal level. Tips are exchanged and contacts are cemented.

During this meeting, Denise Sekaquaptewa clarifies the style of working at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. For example, she mentions the Stride Committee of the ADVANCE program, made up of a dozen members from all departments, the department administrations, deans and other professors asked to serve on nomination committees. «We all had some previous commitment, but what we realized when we got together and started actually looking at the data and learning together, was that we didn’t understand, we didn’t really know what was going on, we really were quite naïve…»

What is the takeaway?

The two researchers reject some of the common explanations as to why women's careers stall.

  • Demographic inertia, which results in men always being on top and women on the bottom, but time will do its work.
    On the contrary, they say it is necessary to be proactive, because there are not enough women in the pipeline.
  • Unequal division of labor, in which women are overwhelmed and don't want to take on responsibilities.
    False, because women without family duties don't advance much better.
  • It is claimed that women are less interested in research, that women's interests quickly change...
    This judgment cannot be made without looking at the environment, sometimes very hostile, in which women researchers are trained.
  • Women don't know how to negotiate correctly, and that's why they don't break through.
    False, because even when women negotiate well, it is seen that women are listened to less, are less valued, and are penalized more than men.

Virginia Valian brings up the issue of "schemas", which she prefers to the term "stereotype", because it is a broader concept. Experimental studies prove that women themselves undervalue other women and pass negative judgments on those who stand out. Psychology also underscores that those who deny the existence of inequalities are also more likely to have a negative opinion of women's competencies.

According to Denise Sekaquaptewa, “Research also shows that we all – regardless of the social group we belong to - perceive and treat people differently based on their social groups (race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.). We are all subject to unconscious bias.” That is why women, as members of a minority, are observed more, perceived as different, and confined to conventional roles.

That is how small streams form large oceans of injustice: Fast accumulation of advantages allows men to progress faster in their careers, while women accumulate penalties.

Provide impetus

Both researchers believe that it is not stressed enough that mixed work teams succeed better. These advantages cannot be mentioned enough, and hierarchies must truly provide an impetus.

“We don’t have to feel guilty about gender schemes. We all have them (…) But we do have to take responsibility for change”, Virginia Valian proclaimed during her public talk, inviting male university staff to change some habits: Look at women when they speak, invite more women to give keynote lectures, and nominate them more often for awards. As for institutional administrations, keep data and setting up task force can already do plenty to advance awareness beyond simple goodwill.

Brigitte Mantilleri, Equal Opportunity Officer at the University of Geneva
(with EMC)

Project set up by the NCCR LIVES (Nicky Le Feuvre, Floriane Demont, Sylvie Burgnard, Emmanuelle Marendaz Colle), the Equal Opportunity Office of the University of Lausanne (Stefanie Brander, Carine Carvalho) and the Equal Opportunity Office of the University of Geneva (Brigitte Mantilleri, Olivia Och)

Award for a LIVES-master thesis on marital satisfaction in the long run at the University of Berne

Award for a LIVES-master thesis on marital satisfaction in the long run at the University of Berne

Since 2011, the advancement award of the Seniors' University of Berne has been conferred annually on particularly meritorious research in the field of age and ageing. This year, the CHF 10’000 prize goes to Jeanine Zwahlen for her master thesis "Marital satisfaction in long-term partnerships: A typological approach", realized within the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES under the supervision of Prof. Pasqualina Perrig-Chiello. The award ceremony will take place on the occasion of the Dies Academicus of the University of Berne on Saturday, December 7, 2013.

The goal of the thesis was to identify patterns in the quality of long-term married individuals still in their first marriage, a group not substantially empirically researched. Based on NCCR LIVES IP12 questionnaire data from 258 women and 236 men (494 individuals total), all of whom were married for at least 40 years, a cluster analysis revealed two groups: a satisfied and an unsatisfied group of partners. The two groups not only differ in interpersonal and intrapersonal resources, but also exhibit different values in health factors. Satisfied individuals in long-term marriages reported higher marital and sexual satisfaction, and furthermore reached higher scores in co-development in the relationship. Additionally, happily married individuals were characterized by lower scores in social loneliness, better psychological and physical health as well as low neuroticism and high scores in agreeableness.

Prof. Pasqualina Perrig-Chiello, head of IP12 at the NCCR LIVES, said, “Jeanine Zwahlen’s master thesis is an excellent scientific achievement, which helps fill a research gap. I find it remarkable that a master student addressed this complex topic in the condensed form of a scientific paper that is so differentiated and informative."

Image ragsac © iStock

Results on personal networks presented to the Regional Employment Offices

Forty ORP advisors from the Canton of Vaud came to the University of Lausanne on November 14, 2013 to hear the first analysis of a study involving 4,648 unemployed persons, conducted by a team from NCCR LIVES. Researchers found the advisors’ input of great interest, which will enable them to formulate new hypotheses on the importance of social contacts in finding work.

"After two minutes of discussion, you have already given us several very interesting ideas to follow up," said Professor Giuliano Bonoli, when the first questions were asked during a presentation prepared by members of IP4 at the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES for advisors from the Regional Employment Offices (ORP) of the Canton of Vaud. The purpose of the meeting was to share the initial results of a study launched at the beginning of 2012 involving 4,648 persons looking for work, in order to determine the usefulness of a person's social contacts in finding a job.

In a first stage, Nicolas Turtschi showed that even if personal contacts are by far the main source of information for finding work, as demonstrated by the earlier careers of the unemployed people surveyed in the study, these same people give top priority to the Internet, the press and unsolicited applications for finding a new job. People with few qualifications make the least use of their network, even though contacts have the most influence in their job areas, much more so than among white-collar workers, contrary to common beliefs.

The most effective contacts

Anna von Ow and Professor Daniel Oesch then explained this paradox: a more advanced level of education increases the chance of getting a job and reduces the probability of finding one through your connections. Thus, the use of a network partly offsets the disadvantages due to education and nationality. The most effective contacts are former colleagues who are in the labor market, working in the same industry and enjoying a more senior position in the hierarchy. Their network is therefore crucial for foreign unemployed workers with little education, who work in construction, agriculture or catering, where hiring processes are less formal.

By this point, many ORP advisors already had feedback: "Have you compared the length of unemployment between graduates of top schools and unskilled workers?"; "Perhaps European Union citizens are more motivated to find work to keep their residence permit!"; "Maybe employers prefer foreigners because they accept lower wages..."; "The questionnaires were mostly filled out during the winter months, when the number of unemployed construction workers is strongly over-represented." "We know that certain cultures have a strong sense of solidarity and that bosses will more easily hire someone with the same roots."

Assessment of an experiment

After this initial discussion, Professor Rafael Lalive moved on to talk about the team’s experiment with study participants. Of the 4,648 persons registered as unemployed between February and April 2012, one-half were specifically made aware of the importance of using their social network, which added fifteen minutes to the normal group information session on unemployment insurance.

Before delivering the results of the comparison, the researcher asked the ORP advisors if they thought this measure had had any impact on subsequently finding a job. The verdict was mixed: some advisors responded by saying that they discussed the issue of networks in their usual presentation anyway. Moreover, it is well known that people only retain 10 to 25% of the information presented in a session.

Actually, the experiment showed that the measure did not have a very noticeable effect on finding work. Only women, people with high employability and those benefitting from a tertiary education show any difference in results between those who received the awareness training and those who only attended the regular session. This equates to a positive impact on the more cooperative profiles, the measure being inadequate for those profiles less in tune with the labor market – exactly those people who already make little use of their network and for whom it is proven that contacts play the most important role.

Reactions of the ORP advisors

Again, the discussion that followed was rather intense. "Men already recognize the importance of networking, they have more contacts and more nerve in asking them," stated one ORP advisor, contradicting the researchers who thought instead that men would be more likely to hide their unemployed status so as not to tarnish their image as the family breadwinner.

Another ORP advisor raised another problem, that of seniors who have a hard time finding a job, and for whom relying on a personal network has the negative connotation of “pulling strings.” "Everything also depends on the region," said yet another. "If the job market is tight, personal contacts count for less!"

In conclusion, the researchers showed that for certain sectors of the population, simply providing information is likely not enough and that it would definitely be necessary to develop measures appropriate to the groups involved, taking into account the specific features of different segments of the job market.

Professor Bonoli announced that a second line of research would begin in 2015, this time focusing on employers. Until then, the evaluation of the initial data will continue. "When we present the data to our colleagues in Europe, we can see how much interest it raises," he said, warmly thanking the ORP advisors for their crucial cooperation in this study.

Photo NiDerLander © iStock

Researchers and practitioners in the integration of youth start a dialogue

On November 4, 2013, in Lausanne, a forum brought together academics from the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES with top administrators from the cantons of Vaud and Fribourg to discuss the issues of young adults on social assistance. This meeting was intended as an informal exchange of views, with no other result required than to foster mutual understanding between professionals who are interested in the same issues but have very different practices.

"Multidimensionality of vulnerability": these words came up often on Monday 4 November in the Pontaise administrative building, used to describe the problems encountered by young adults when they attempt to enter the workforce. Social science researchers, social services department heads and integration programme managers – around twenty people in all – spent the afternoon discussing the challenges of supporting 18- to 25-year-olds with cumulative disadvantages.

At the beginning of the meeting, several portraits of disaffected youth were sketched out by Nicole Andrey, head of the "Scenic Adventure" project, a social and professional integration measure in the canton of Vaud, intended to reengage participants through artistic creativity. Many of these youths are plagued by family difficulties, low self-esteem, housing problems and unhealthy lifestyles, she explained. She underscored the importance of running the distance and not falling for the illusion of immediate results – both for the young people and for the social workers.

Scientific contributions

Three short presentations by researchers at the NCCR LIVES followed. Felix Bühlmann (IP5) expressed his interest in studying the life course of members of this population, and in problematizing existing integration measures while benefiting from the methodological advances offered by sequence analysis, which is a means of extracting typologies from trajectories that are originally quite varied, in order to better understand how some people fare better than others.

Then Emilie Rosenstein (IP5) summarised the conclusions of a study conducted with Jean-Michel Bonvin and Maël Dif-Pradelier that examined the canton of Vaud's FORJAD programme. Turning to the concept of the capabilities, she stressed the need for young people to take ownership of the measures offered to them, and underscored two crucial dimensions: the personalisation of support, and timing, which means setting up projects that take into account each person's biographical paths and their pace. She ended by posing the question of what comes next when measures end, asking what the government could do to create opportunities in the labour market, so that young people don't tumble into disillusionment.

Finally, Christian Staerklé (IP9) took a more psychosocial approach to workforce integration by looking at the need young people have for recognition – by their peers, their families and their environment – as well as the importance of identity and social belonging. He mentioned a study done by his team that showed the beneficial effect of collective self-definitions on the feeling of effectiveness, especially among immigrant youth – a conclusion that may inspire programmes for aid and workforce integration.

An animated debate

In the debate that followed, François Mollard, head of the canton of Fribourg's Social Action Service, said that research topics give him additional arguments for defending projects to help young people on social assistance. Sitting next to him, Jean-Claude Simonet, scientific advisor in the same department, commented several times to highlight the many challenges of integrating this population, and the need to offer diversified approaches in response to their needs.

From Vaud, the Service of social assistance and welfare was mainly represented by its head Françoise Jaques and Antonello Spagnolo, head of the Assistance and Social Integration Unit. The latter asked several fundamental questions: for example, how to allow beneficiaries to break free from the services provided by the public sector? How far does the state's responsibility extend when it comes to people whose workforce integration fails for reasons inherent to the labour market?

"It's not easy to accept that some people will just be sacrificed," added Simonet. For some people, the priority must be to bring young people closer to the realities of the working world, with finding employment being the real driver. However, many note that full employment is an illusion. Still others see work as potential violence against people who are already fragile, pointing out that work itself does not necessarily guarantee financial independence. And how can success be measured when other problems exist alongside the workforce integration problems (addictions, etc.)?

Research questions

The discussion – which became ever more lively – did not yield a miracle solution. The researchers, including Dario Spini, director of the NCCR LIVES, called for greater collaboration between public authorities and the scientific world in order to understand the mechanisms involved in the processes of social exclusion and mobility. The practitioners, on the other hand, expressed interest in research providing them with a better understanding of how young people benefit from medium-term measures, whether they are able to maintain the skills they acquired, and what the concrete results of existing programs have been.

The participants left with the agreement that future meetings could involve deeper examination of specific questions in small groups, while involving other stakeholders, such as representatives of employers and civil society. They could also broaden the approach to other stages of life, knowing that problems don't arise all of a sudden at age 18 and do not simply end at age 25.

Photo coloroftime © iStock

Breast cancer also affects men. A team from NCCR LIVES is looking into this

The disease, which affects one in eight women, also makes victims of some of their partners. At the LIVES National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR), a project led by Prof. Nicolas Favez shows that both partners need to be supported.

This is a micro team that has started studying the psychosociological impacts of a major 21st century disease: breast cancer, the main cause of death of women under the age of 60. Nicolas Favez, professor of psychology at the University of Geneva, and head of IP11 at NCCR LIVES, is carrying out a longitudinal study with a post-doc researcher, a PhD student and a nurse, in collaboration with a physician at the CHUV, taking the original approach of also looking at what the romantic partner goes through during this ordeal. 

The study consists of several stages. In the month following their operation, the patients and their companion are asked to fill out a personal questionnaire, and to take part in a 30 minute interview. This exercise is then repeated three times over the course of the next two years. The questionnaire collects socio-demographic data about the participants, as well as information on their psychological state of mind, the quality of their relationship as a couple, and the social support they are receiving. The interview allows certain feelings to be examined in more depth and uses a "mixed methods" approach, combining quantitative and qualitative elements.

More participants than planned

Initially, at the end of 2011, the team was expecting to have difficulty in recruiting participants and set itself the target of finding 60 couples, or 120 people. Two years later, 150 people have already been interviewed and experience shows that the refusal rate is only 30%. Single women are also taking part in the study, or women who have a partner but who responded solo, as their partner did not agree to join the project.

"We see that people are often glad that someone is interested in them other than for medical issues. Men are especially pleased that they are included in the process", explains Prof. Favez. "Our analysis of the initial data shows that the stress created by the disease is just as great, if not greater, for the men than for the women, who have a clear enemy to fight, while their spouses feel adrift and not in control of the situation."

The researcher also noticed that the women who show the highest indications of the symptoms of depression are those whose companion refused to take part: "It could well be an indicator of tension in the relationship, and we already know that support from the romantic partner is essential to your mental health during any kind of illness. What is more controversial is whether mental health in its turn has an effect on the immune system, and therefore on physiological health", he continues.

Material for ten years

At this stage the only analysis has concerned the first wave of questionnaires and interviews. "We have material for ten years of research and publications", the project leader says delightedly.

Another original aspect of this study is the application of attachment theory to observe the way in which women experience their cancer, and to analyze the kind of support romantic partners provide when faced with a disease like this. Roughly summarized, this theory classifies people into three styles of attachment: secure, anxious and avoidant, depending on personality traits developed in the first few months of life. "We have already been able to analyze that avoiding women, who do not display their emotional needs and who are very much in control of themselves, suffer more from the damage breast cancer does to their body image. That makes us think that perhaps interventions need to be adapted to match the personalities of each of the women and their partners", says the psychologist.

Prevention and psychological support

The ultimate goal of this study, in addition to fundamental research, is to come up with some proposals for preventing the negative effects of cancer on psychological well-being. For the moment, women do not receive any systematic follow-up, and men receive no support at all. The project team feels that a place needs to be provided where men can come to relieve the burden of assisting their ill partner every day, with complete confidentiality. 

The interviews carried out as part of the study show that, in any case, the companions are very pleased that someone is showing an interest in their personal situation. The other conclusion, also provisional for the moment, is that if this offer is built into the standard treatment process for the patient, it is more likely to be absorbed than if it comes from a different source. Couples will accept this offer more willingly if it does not divert them from their top priority: beating the disease.

"Assessing the social investment strategy" (International Conference)

International Conference organised by IDHEAP, NCCR LIVES and the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lausanne on April 10-11, 2014.

Call for submissions of papers that analyse the policies and politics of social investment. More specifically :

  • General studies of the reorientation of social policies towards social investment
  • Studies of the politics of social investment policies
  • Impact studies of selected social investment policies, such as childcare, active labour market policies, retraining programmes, etc..
  • Studies of social interventions in a life course perspective
  • Assessments of the social investment strategy as a whole

Paper submissions should consist of a title, an abstract (300 words max.) and full contact details of all authors.

They should be sent to socialinvestment2014@idheap.unil.ch no later than 20th December 2013.

Photo schmidttty © iStock

Two US researchers in Switzerland for planting equal opportunity seeds in Academic minds

The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES and the Equal Opportunity Offices of the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne have invited two eminent specialists of gender issues to run a series of workshops. From November 27 to 29 2013, they will attempt to make new ideas flourish in order to break through the university’s glass ceiling.

Three major events will take place at the end of November at the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne regarding the promotion of women’s academic careers.

This three-fold initiative is called “Gender Awareness in Academia: From Principles to Practice” and was born out of a mandate of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES).

The NCCR LIVES partnered with the Equal Opportunity (EO) Offices of its two home institutions to plan and organise this training programme, intended for a variety of target audiences.

SNSF expectation

As required by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), which funds them, all the national centres of competence in research such as LIVES have the promotion of women researchers as one of their tasks.

“We wanted to give a bit of an innovative turn to our Action Plan”, says Prof. Nicky Le Feuvre, who is in charge of the EO measures on the LIVES Steering Board.

Prestigious guests

The two keynotes are Virginia Valian, Senior Researcher at the Department of Psychology of Hunter College (NY), and Denise Sekaquaptewa, Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. She will replace Abigail Stewart, who had been announced in the invitations that were mailed last September, but who is unable to travel for health reasons.

Both have conducted intensive research programmes on gender issues and actively participated in initiatives for the promotion of women’s careers in their respective institutions.

Combatting stereotypes

The three-day programme includes a gender awareness workshop that will take place in Geneva on November 27 and in Lausanne on November 28. It is designed for senior members of the NCCR LIVES and other high-level academics.

According to Nicky Le Feuvre, “Most academic EO programmes target women, thus running the risk of framing them as “the problem”. Our idea in LIVES was to turn the reasoning around and to start from the premise that the real problem for women in the academy was basically the gender stereotypes that the senior (usually male) gatekeepers may have.”

The workshop, to be run by Virginia Valian and Denise Sekaquaptewa, will be resolutely interactive, hands on and entertaining, offering those who have climbed the academic ladder an opportunity to critically explore their own beliefs and practices. With many specialists of social inequalities in the audience, the debate promises to be lively!

Public lecture

On November 28, Virginia Valian will also give a public lecture, in English, at the IDHEAP Aula (Lausanne). Entitled “Why so slow?”, it will be inspired by her regularly re-edited best-selling book of the same name, first published in 1998.

Drawing on data from psychology, sociology and economics, her conclusions remain highly topical and help to explain why even today so few women occupy positions of power and prestige in the academic world.

For a sustainable impact

Finally, on November 29, the two US researchers will lead a train the trainers seminar in Lausanne. This session is aimed at gender specialists, from within or outside the academic field, e.g representatives of EO offices in universities, city administrations, at the cantonal or federal level, as well as other people with a professional interest in promoting gender equality.

This seminar aims at exchanging ideas, good practices and teaching materials, in order for the Gender Awareness Academia’s initiative to produce fruitful results in the long term, in as many domains and areas as possible.

"A life course perspective on health trajectories and transitions" (Springer Series)

Claudine Burton-Jeangros & Stéphane Cullati (NCCR LIVES IP10, University of Geneva), Amanda Sacker (University College London), and David Blane (Imperial College London) are editors of a book that will be published by Springer in the collection “Life course research and social
policies”, directed by NCCR LIVES Board of Directors (Laura Bernardi, Dario Spini and Michel Oris).

  • Propositions : November 15, 2013
  • Selection of abstracts: December 1, 2013
  • Submission of chapters: March 2014
  • Reviewing: feedback to authors by April 30, 2014
  • Final submission: June 15, 2014

"Transformations of retirement policies" (Swiss Journal of Sociology)

René Knüsel, Jean-François Bickel, Béatrice Steiner, and François Höpflinger are Guest Editors of the Swiss Journal of Sociology Special Issue 2015 41(3) on "Transformations of retirement policies".

  • Deadline for abstract proposals : November 15, 2013.
  • Full papers : June 1, 2014.
  • Date of publication : November 2015.

See the call for papers:

Photo Patrick Clenet, Wikipedia

NCCR LIVES strengthens commitment to life course studies at international level

Several members of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES participated in the annual Conference of the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS) in Amsterdam, September 23-25, 2013. The next conference will take place in Lausanne. See you in 2014!

The National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (NCCR LIVES) became member of the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS) in 2012. NCCR LIVES Director, Dario Spini, is the global representative for Switzerland at the SLLS. He was in Amsterdam for the SLLS International Conference from 23rd to 25th September with other LIVES members in order to present their research.

The title of the conference this year was “Growing Up and Growing Old: Health Transitions Throughout the Lifecourse”. Keynote speakers were Eco de Geus, Professor of Biological Psychology, Co-Director of the Netherlands Twin Registry at the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam, Mark Hayward, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and Mel Bartley, Emeritus Professor of Medical Sociology, Director of the ESRC Centre for Life Course Studies in Society and Health, University College London.

The sessions covered a variety of topics relating to health in the life course, such as substance use, exercise behaviour, obesity, mental health, education, adolescence and transition to adulthood, old age, socioeconomic background, employment, and more, with about 150 presentations and 30 posters coming from more than 15 countries.

Two LIVES symposia

LIVES members organised two symposia: “At risk situations and well-being: the impact of personal resources”, and “Looking back: functional and psychological health among the generations of Swiss elderly (1979-2012)”.

The first one featured Christian Maggiori (IP7) with “Unemployed professional trajectories – evidences from the first two years of a Swiss longitudinal study”. The researcher showed that when former unemployed individuals find a job that is perceived as unstable, their well-being remain low and quite comparable to that of still unemployed people, whereas the well-being of persons who find a stable job rise up considerably. This finding challenges the dichotomy between employed and unemployed people regarding well-being.

The following presentation by Veronique Eicher (IP9) addressed “Coping with stressful situations in the professional domain”. Then Dario Spini (IP1, IP13) talked about “Social group participation as a coping strategy after the loss of an intimate partner”, and Rachel Fasel, scientific officer at the NCCR LIVES, about “Shattered beliefs: how to cope when the world is not a just place?” (see Book on war traces in former Yugoslavia crosses borders between scientific disciplines).

Other LIVES researchers also presented their work: Gilbert Ritschard, Stéphane Cullati, Mouna Bakouri, Nora Dasoki, Aude Tholomier, Michaela Knecht.

All of them had many opportunities to learn about the methods and findings of important panel studies in other countries like the USA, UK and France, among others.

Next year in Lausanne

The next International Conference of the SLLS will focus on social policy in a life course perspective. The NCCR LIVES team is looking foward to hosting this interdisciplinary event in the premises of the University of Lausanne from 9th to 11th October 2014.

"Lone Parenthood in a Life Course perspective" (Workshop)

The Swiss National Center of Competence in Research LIVES organizes a workshop on June 6-7, 2014, at the University of Lausanne. Abstract submission (between 500 and 2000 characters) is December 15, 2013.

Lone parenthood is an increasing reality in the XXI century, reinforced by the diffusion of divorce and separation. Despite the significance of this phenomenon, current studies and official statistics say relatively little about the process leading to lone parenthood, the nature of such state (transitory, stable, recurrent) and its complementary aspect of non-residential parenthood. How rapidly do single parent re-partner if they do so? How long do people stay lone parents for? What roles do play the age and the number of parents and children? How are roles shared between residential and non-residential parents? How lone parenthood varies between countries, cultures, generations, and institutional settings? What is the role of legal regulations concerning shared custody, parental authority, and financial support to non-residential children?

A life course perspective is essential in order to better understand lone parenthood and non-residential parenthood as part of family dynamics. We address this call to social sciences researchers (demography, sociology, social psychology, political sciences, economics, law) with an interest in the topic of lone and non-residential parenthood. We particularly welcome empirical contributions (quantitative, a qualitative, or mixed methods) taking a life course longitudinal perspective.

The following topics are to be addressed in the workshop:

  • Different forms of lone parenthood (chosen vs. event-driven lone parenthood, in the presence or absence of the non residential parent, etc...).
  • Transitions in and out of lone parenthood and the processes implied in these transitions.
  • Socio-economic, psychological, social well-being of lone parents/non-residential parents.
  • Intergenerational and gender perspectives on lone parenthood/non residential parenthood.
  • Prevalence and characteristics of lone parenthood/non-residential parenthood in comparative perspective (cross national, cross cultural, cross generational comparisons).

The workshop will take place in Lausanne on June 6-7, 2014.

The deadline for the abstract submission (between 500 and 2000 characters) is December 15, 2013. Proposals can be sent to laura.bernardi@unil.ch.

Scientific committee:
Laura Bernardi (University of Lausanne), Pasqualina Perrig-Chiello (University of Bern), Cornelia Hummel (University of Geneva), Marieke Voorpostel (FORS)

17th European Conference on Personality

The 17th European Conference on Personality (ECP17) will be held at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), from July 15 to July 19, 2014.
NCCR LIVES supports the conference.

Submission is open. The deadlines for abstract submission are the following:

  • Submission of a symposium: February 1, 2014
  • Submission of an oral presentation or a poster: Frebruay 15, 2014
  • Feeback on abstract acceptance: April 14, 2014

More information on http://www3.unil.ch/wpmu/ecp17/

Photo Hugues Siegenthaler

The first “LIVES Doctor” receives the Faculty Award in Economics and Social Sciences in Geneva

Matthias Studer, who was the first doctoral student of the NCCR LIVES to complete his PhD thesis, received on Friday September 20, 2013, a prize of 2000 Swiss francs. The thesis jury considered that half of his work would deserve a doctorate…

Member of IP6 and IP14 of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES, Matthias Studer got his PhD in January 2012. His research has just earned him the Award from the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences of the University of Geneva.

In his PhD thesis, Matthias Studer shows that women do not have the same opportunities as men to access to doctoral studies and to obtain a PhD in the requested deadline.

The researcher’s demonstration used innovating methods in sequence data analysis. His skills helped develop the TraMineR toolbox, which is nowadays used worldwide.

During the thesis defense, the members of the jury underlined his “amazing maturity”, his “great working autonomy” and his “sense of pedagogy”.

Prof. Cees Elzinga, of the VU University Amsterdam, said that he had read Matthias Studer’s thesis with “great admiration (…) because it really contains two theses, each more than sufficient to be awarded with a doctorate.” He was refering to the demonstration of gender inequalities as well as to the development of methods.

For the 3rd time in a year, NCCR LIVES inform survey respondents

For the 3rd time in a year, NCCR LIVES inform survey respondents

About 2000 participants in the study on individual characteristics and professional trajectories received a newsletter in September 2013. Another study on the loss of an intimate partner in the second half of life also produced such a publication.

The National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (NCCR LIVES) is conducting several longitudinal surveys in the framework of its research projects. Large samples of the population in Switzerland thus regularly answer questionnaires about different topics.

These people were informed of the provisional findings of the IP7 and IP12 first waves.

IP7 is interested in the personal characteristics and professional trajectories. The team has just sent a second newsletter in September 2013, eleven months after a first edition about the data collected during the first wave.

IP12 work on couple, divorce and widowhood issues in the second life half. The team presented its initial findings in a newsletter published in March 2013.

All these documents are on line on the NCCR LIVES website in the French and German pages.

City of Mostar. Photo: Mura © iStock

Book on war traces in former Yugoslavia crosses borders between scientific disciplines

The conflict in the Balkans changed the collective identities and self-images of the population. A team from the NCCR LIVES is publishing a work whose theories and methods get off the beaten tracks. Its conclusions question existing theories in the literature. Its interdisciplinary approach goes to a level rarely achieved in this type of publication.

"In the contemporary world, there is certainly no shortage of fragile states, separatist nationalism, violent rebellion, or fierce repression. If the findings that are reported in this book inspire some observers to think differently about the underlying logic of collective action or encourage some researchers to document the collective experiences associated with the violent disruption or redefinition of the communities they are studying, then this book will have achieved its main purpose."

These are the last lines of the book War, Community, and Social Change. Collective Experiences in the Former Yugoslavia, edited by Dario SpiniGuy Elcheroth, and Dinka Corkalo Biruski, which has just been published by Springer, with contributions from some fifteen authors, half of whom are associated with the National Centre of Competence in ResearchLIVES.

"Invited voices"

Besides being a collection of contributions from psychologists, sociologists, demographers and historians, this work also contains the “invited voices” of an anthropologist, a human rights activist and a journalist. All the contributors try to show how the victims of the wars in the former Yugoslavia have confronted and overcome these long periods of violence. Their conclusions demonstrate with what intensity the events of the last decade of the 20th century affected the exposed peoples.

Dario Spini, director of the NCCR LIVES, explains the use of the invited voices as “a way to show that our research results can also be seen in the visible and concrete realities.” In a more general way, he says the work is a “beautiful example of how interdisciplinary research can be carried out, with very different and complementary approaches using the same data.”

Door-to-door survey

What data is being used? The information comes from a survey conducted in 2006 among 5,500 individuals from six countries in the former Yugoslavia - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia. It was part of the TRACES project (TRansition to Adulthood and Collective Experiences Survey), financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Part of the team collaborated with academics from Belgrade, Zagreb and Zadar, as well as Sarajevo. The data was collected over three months by local interviewers who went door-to-door to collect the trajectories of the region’s residents by using life calendars. A questionnaire on the norms and representations of people born between 1968 and 1974 also formed part of the survey. This cohort, who became adults just at the time of war, was in fact more at risk of being involved in the conflict and exposed to it, at a particularly sensitive age.

On the basis of this data, the researchers worked with several themes. The chapter from Dusko Sekulic shows why ethnic intolerance is more a result than a cause of war. In an article by Jean-Marie Le Goff and Francesco Giudici, the complexity, the occurrence, and the evolution of mixed marriages before and after the war are carefully presented. In another section, Jacques-Antoine Gauthier and Eric Widmer address the displacement of populations and allude to the considerable role of the politicization of identities. Davide Morselli and Stefano Passini then go on to demonstrate that people who have a strong ethnic identification are more likely to be subject to a feeling of anomie, whatever their actual experiences.

The invited voices bring different perspectives to those derived from the data. Anthropologist Ivana Macek looks at the contrasts of submission and resistance during the siege of Sarajevo. Svetlana Broz from the NGO Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide (GARIWO) recalls the righteous and brave people who refused to follow the path of ethnic hatred. And Florence Hartmann, journalist and former spokesperson of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, shows how this legal instrument failed to answer the needs of the victims.

Questioning key concepts

The last part of the book adopts a clearly psychosocial point of view in order to concentrate on the collective dimensions of vulnerability and resilience, including contributions from Rachel FaselGuy Elcheroth, and Sandra Penic. These authors' observations lead them to question certain key concepts in the literature on this subject. For instance, Rachel Fasel shows that the belief in a just world, described in the literature as a stable resource for any individual throughout their life, has been severely shaken in the former Yugoslavia by the experience of the war. “In the TRACES project, we were working in a totally different context than what had been observed in previous situations, that were less tormenting,” says the researcher. “Actually we noted that the combination of victimization due to the war and socio-economic fragility led to less belief in a just world, which had an impact on the wellbeing of individuals. People not only need to eat and drink, but also to maintain positive beliefs, especially to believe in justice.”

Guy Elcheroth mentions other points that call specific certainties into question: “The literature in social psychology establishes a link between docility when dealing with public authorities and hostility when dealing with foreigners or minorities. This is the syndrome of the authoritative personality, which is absolutely relevant in some contexts. We also noticed this in Slovenia or in Croatia, which were experiencing a period of relative prosperity at the time of the survey. But it is much less the case when you look at regions that have been economically devastated. There a different phenomenon can be seen: the same individuals are often doubly distrustful towards their own public authorities and towards external scapegoats.”

The researcher believes that the book as a whole shows “how the war changed the beliefs of a whole generation.” The experience of working on TRACES also left its mark on the team. Guy Elcheroth has just obtained funds for continuing this line of research, now looking at pluralistic memories and transitional justice in Burundi, in Sri Lanka and in the Palestinian Territories. As for the other members of the group, from TRACES to LIVES, the common theme is of course the study of vulnerability, “a topic that has been with us for a long time,” says Dario Spini.

Spini, Dario; Elcheroth, Guy; Corkalo Biruski, Dinka (Eds.)
War, Community, and Social Change. Collective Experiences in the Former Yugoslavia
Series: Peace Psychology Book Series, Vol. 17
2014, XII, 241 p. 24 illus., 6 illus. in color.





The winter school 2014 will address several life course topics

The winter school 2014 will address several life course topics

From March 22nd to 29th, 2014, the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES and four other international research centres organise a winter school in Les Diablerets, little village of the Swiss Alps. The programme include friendship networks of older adults, personal characteristics in unstable professional context, and impact of spatial mobility on family life.

For this 2nd edition of the Winter School on Life Course, a new partner joined the organisers: the Ageing and Living Conditions Programme (ALC) of Umeå University, Sweden.

See the full programme with links to the workshops description.