FSD Bulletin

Issue 20 (1/2007)
6.2.2007

ISSN 1795-5262

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FSD Bulletin is the electronic newsletter of the Finnish Social Science Data Archive. The Bulletin provides information and news related to the data archive and social science research.


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Finnish Social Science Data Archive
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Insights into Differences in Behavioural Strategies

Mari Kleemola

Lea Pulkkinen

Lea Pulkkinen, Emerita Professor of Psychology at the University of Jyväskylä, began her long and distinguished career by studying socio-emotional behaviour of children. She has created a model of emotional and behavioural regulation which consists of two dimensions: degree of self-control on one hand and behavioural inhibition vs. expression on the other. These two dimensions yield four different behavioural strategies used in conflict situations.

The initial idea for the study came when she observed that a teacher's and a child's assessments of the child's personality did not coincide. Pulkkinen focused her interest on aggressiveness which is the personality trait easiest to assess. Her research showed that only a small group of children behave aggressively.
- I began to wonder what other behavioural strategies there are for children to adopt in conflict situations. The idea of a two-dimensional model of differences in behavioural strategies just popped into my head, as a sort of "Eureka" experience, in 1967. I began testing the model, Pulkkinen recalls.

The first round of data collection for the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development (JYLS) took place in 1968 when Pulkkinen collected data for her dissertation. The data on the behaviour of 8-year-old school children, collected through peer nominations and teacher ratings, proved that the model works.
- Already in my dissertation I suggested a follow-up study pertaining to how these behavioural differences might affect the future of the children. With the help of a small grant from the Academy of Finland and a group of eager students preparing their master's theses, I was able to carry out a new data collection in 1974.

Longitudinal study requires stamina

Over the last 40 years, various types of data have been collected for the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development. At the time when the participants were still at school, peer nominations and teacher ratings were used. Later on, when the participants had reached adulthood, data were collected with the help of interviews, self-assessments, and questionnaires.

Keeping tract of the participants throughout all this time has required a lot of work. In the early years lack of funding also caused problems, e.g. the researchers could not interview all participants.
- Throughout the years we have relied heavily on the enthusiasm and hard work of students. After the department reached the status of a Centre of Excellence in Research things have been easier, both in terms of funding and employing researchers, Pulkkinen says.

Hard work and personal contacts with the research subjects have resulted in high participation rate and high quality data.
- The original sample included all pupils in the randomly selected school classes, there was no selection once the classes had been chosen. Over the years there have been very few refusals to participate.

International recognition

Professor Lea Pulkkinen has received national and international recognition. She was elected the Woman of the Year in Finland in 1983, and the Professor of the Year in 1992. She received the Finnish Science Award in 2001.

Recent international recognitions include the Aristotle Prize of the European Federation of Psychological Associations (EFPA) in 2003, and the award for "distinguished contributions to science" of the Society for Research in Child Development, USA, in 2005, and the Distinguished Scientific Award for the Application of Behavioral Development Theory and Research from the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development (ISSBD) in 2006. Pulkkinen was the first Finn to receive these awards, and also the first woman (except for the ISSB award).
- What the awards and prizes tell me is that the research has gone forward and people have been paying attention to our message. Even though the awards have been granted to me personally, I certainly have not done the research by myself, Pulkkinen points out.
- Nearly one hundred people have worked for the JYLS project, and everyone's input has been needed. My role has been to function as the project leader, to hold everything together.

Social impact of the research

Lea Pulkkinen feels it is her duty to inform decision-makers on how people's quality of life might be improved. She has participated actively in social debate since the 1970s. One recent initiative was the MUKAVA project 2002-2005, led by Pulkkinen. A central component of the project was the integrated school day which sparked a lively public debate.
- I've always been interested in how research results - both my own and those of others - can be applied in society. I do not want get involved in political parties and their policies, my aim is to present views which arise from research, Pulkkinen says.

Data widely used

Lea Pulkkinen has always been inclined to allow others to use the data collected for the JYLS.
- We participate in a network of researchers concentrating on longitudinal studies. The network is co-ordinated by the University of Michigan, and the aim is to compare the findings of longitudinal studies in different countries. Here in Finland we collaborate with economists, for example.

Twelve dissertations and about fifty master's theses have been based on the JYLS data. The book Socioemotional Development and Health from Adolescence to Adulthood, published in New York in 2006 and edited by Pulkkinen et al., included contributions from several researchers whose published or yet to be published dissertations are based on data from the project.

Lea Pulkkinen is still supervising several dissertations. She would also like to analyse the data herself.
- Before computers, when everything had to be calculated manually, I did the analyses myself. It is a paradox that now, with all the computers and sophisticated software, I rarely have time for analysis even though that is what I would most like to do.

More information on the JYLS project.

The Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development

The Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development, begun in 1968, is an ongoing Finnish longitudinal study. The same individuals have been followed up for almost 35 years. The study began with 8-year-old participants, most of whom were born in 1959. Since then, data have been collected in 1969 (boys only), 1974, 1980, 1986, 1992 (a mailed questionnaire only), 1995, 1997 to 1999, and 2001, when the participants were about 42 years of age.

The main objectives have been to study continuity in socio-emotional behaviour and personality from childhood to adulthood, the ways in which research subjects' family lives reflect their families of origin, the development of educational and work trajectories, formation of health-related behaviour and state of health, and associations between personality, family, work, and health trajectories.

The data are archived at the Finnish Social Science Data Archive.