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Release: May 1, 2000

Seven UI professors win grants from Obermann Center

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Seven University of Iowa researchers have won grants from the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies for five projects studying children and their families. These Center for Advanced Studies Spelman Rockefeller (CASSPR) Grants are supported by the UI Laura Spelman Rockefeller Fund and by the UI Office of the Vice President for Research. The $5,000 grants will fund research to be carried out this summer.

This year's award recipients are Elena V. Gavruseva, an assistant professor of linguistics; Elizabeth Heineman, an associate professor of history; Kathleen F. Janz, an associate professor of sport, health, leisure, and physical studies; Steven M. Levy, a professor of preventive medicine; Trudy L. Burns, a professor of biostatistics; Patricia Kelley, a professor of social work; and Rita K. Noonan, an assistant professor of sociology.

Gavruseva will study the use of verbal "inflection" (adding such elements as —ed, -ing, or —s) in children who have learned English as a second language in late childhood, approximately ages
5-8. She believes an understanding of when and why children who have learned English as a second language use these verb forms will contribute to a wider understanding of the nature of child grammars and children's communicative abilities.

Heineman will study the social environments, the legal constraints, and the economic well-being of children of mixed relationships in postwar Germany. This work is part of a book-length project entitled "Intimate Crossings: Mixed Couples in the Postwar Germanys." It examines families started by mixed couples from 1945-1975 by exploring the legal and institutional structures, the cultural representations, and the social worlds that shaped their experiences.

Janz, Levy, and Burns will collaborate on a study of measuring physical activity in children. The project seeks to define movement count categories that correspond to different physical activity intensity levels in children. This will enhance researchers' ability to detect significant associations between levels of children's physical activity and their health status.

Kelley, along with Lou Blankenberg of United Action for Youth (UAY) in Iowa City and Judith McRoberts of the National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice will work on a project titled "Girls Fighting Trouble: Re-Storying Young Lives." This project will expand on an intensive summer therapeutic group experience for young female offenders begun last summer. The program integrates a narrative approach, in which stories of self are identified and broadened, with an existing cognitive and educational model used by UAY. The goal is to develop deeper understanding of female offenders' thoughts, beliefs, and experiences through qualitative analysis of their writings and transcripts of the taped group sessions.

Noonan's project "Domestic Violence and Children's Health: What Helps? What Hurts?" is a pilot study of the links between family violence and negative mental and physical health among children in the developing world. The goal is to determine whether the effect of family violence on children's health is mediated by the mother's access to social support and her level of mental and physical well-being.

Jay Semel, director of the Obermann Center, said that since its inception this program has resulted in about $7.8 million in external grants and in numerous publications. In recent years CASSPR Grant recipients have gone on to win grants from the National Institutes of Health and have published research findings on children's accident injuries, market women in Peru, and family stress.

Local community and professional groups who wish to invite researchers to speak at their meetings about these projects should contact the Obermann Center at (319) 335-4034.