Neuro-Psychologists Moffit and Caspi Win Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize

The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2010, endowed with one million Swiss francs (one million dollar), is being awarded to the British-American Israeli neuropsychologists Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi for their research on the interaction between genetics and environment and the effect of this on youth violence. The Klaus J. Jacobs practice award, endowed with a value of 200,000 Swiss francs, goes to Heidemarie Rose and Erika Dähler. With “Opstapje” and “a:primo” they have created a model for the early support of children with a strong involvement by the parents, which is today being applied in more than 60 German and Swiss towns. The award ceremony will take place at the University of Zurich on December 3.

Zurich, October 18, 2010. Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, recipients of the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2010, are researchers and professors at Duke University, North Carolina, USA, and at Kings’ College, London. They research the interplay of hereditary disposition and environmental influences and how these affect antisocial and violent behavior among youth. Their empirical research is based on the Dunedin cohort study, which studied approximately 1000 individuals born 1972 and 1973 on the southern tip of New Zealand. Their development has since been monitored constantly by doctors. Moffitt and Caspi also included data from a family clan in Nijmegen, Netherlands, that attracted attention in the 1980s due to its high percentage of members who were prone to violence and exhibited lower than-average intelligence. Moffitt and Caspi established that there is indeed a genotype that displays a higher tendency toward antisocial behavior, but that it does not manifest itself under favorable living conditions. Based on these findings, they concluded that personality is not determined by genetics or by environment, but rather by the interaction of genetics and environment. Thus, intervention programs that focus on improving the living environment have a good hance of success even in the case of children with “unfavorable” hereditary dispositions. But the the focus of such programs should not be on the child alone but also on the parents and the social environment.

The Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Award is being shared between the institutions “Opstapje” e.V. Germany and the Swiss association “a:primo”. Their play and support program for infants and toddlers from socially disadvantaged families, which originated in the Netherlands, encourages development of social interactions appropriate to the child’s age. It offers a combination of weekly house visits and regular mothers’ meetings. The “low-threshold”, easy-access support program is based on implementation aids which are offered by “Opstapje” (Germany) and “a:primo” (Switzerland). Today, the program is being used in 54 German and 11 Swiss towns. Dr. Heidemarie Rose will be receiving the award on behalf of “Opstapje” e.V., and Erika Dähler Meyer on behalf of “a:primo”.

Locations for Opstapje in Germany and Switzerland are to be found in:

Germany: Chemnitz, Berlin-Mitte, Berlin (2times), Potsdam, Seelow, Greifswald, Hamburg (2times), Bremerhaven, Langen, Bremen, Wahrenholz, Uelzen, Bad Fallingbostel, Hannover, Langenhagen (2times), Stadthagen, Herford, Kassel (3times), Giessen, Schwülper, Salzgitter, Gifhorn, Heiligenhaus, Gladbeck, Neukirchen-Vluyn, Mainz, Soest, Langen, Hanau, Michelstadt, Wiesbaden, St. Wendel, Stuttgart, München (2times), Germering, Fürstenfeldbruck, Nürnberg, Forchheim, Neumarkt i.d.Opf., Hof, Schalkaden, Goch, Kleve, Bambard, Cottbus, Neunkirchen; Switzerland: Bern (Primano), Winterthur (schritt:weise), St.Gallen (schritt:weise), Basel, Solothurn, Olten, Ostermundingen, Wallisellen, Zürich, Langenthal (schritt:weise) and Liestal.

Find more information about the prize-winners here (as of 18.10.2010):