Klaus Hurrelmann

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Klaus Hurrelmann is Professor of Public Health and Education at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany.

Klaus Hurrelmann was born on 10 January 1944 in Gdingen and studied sociology, psychology and education in Berkeley (USA), Freiburg and Münster.

Academic career[edit]

He earned his Ph.D. with a dissertation on the social and institutional determinants of education in 1971, and started his career as a scientist in1975 with a work entitled “The Educational System and Society”. In the same year, he took on a professorship for empirical educational social research at the Universität Essen.

In 1980, he transferred to the Faculty of Education at the Universität Bielefeld. With his colleagues, he established the interdisciplinary, collaborative research center ("Sonderforschungsbereich") “Prevention and Intervention in Childhood and Youth”, supported and financed by the German Research Association (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) and served as its director from 1986 to 1998. He was also co-founder of the Center for Childhood and Youth Research in Bielefeld.

In 1994, Klaus Hurrelmann joined the newly established Faculty of Health Sciences at the Universität Bielefeld and held the office of founding dean for about 10 years. He worked in the area of prevention and health promotion and initiated many international co-operations. On behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), he served as the director of the Collaborating Research Center for Health in Adolescence until 2007 and headed the German section of the study “Health Behavior in School Children (HBSC)”. He was a visiting professor of sociology at New York University in 1990 and in 1999 served as visiting professor of health sciences at UCLA.

In 2009, Klaus Hurrelmann joined the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin as Senior Professor of Public Health and Education. His main research is on the connection between family and education policy with basic approaches from social and health policy in order to develop comprehensive intervention strategies for the prevention of social and health impairments in children and youth.


The focus of Klaus Hurrelmann’s research is on socialization, childhood and adolescence, education, and health. The theoretical approach he developed for these research topics does not only influence sociology but also research projects in the field of pedagogy, psychology, health science, and social medicine.

He directed several projects on the role family and school conditions play in the development of personality and achievement, the correlation between socialization and health, and the prevention of risk behavior, especially violence, addiction and psychosomatic health disorders. He served as a managing team member of the last three National Children and Youth Surveys ("Shell Youth Studies") and "World Vision Children Studies", and the German Young Adults' Studies on Financial Literacy.

Socialization research[edit]

Klaus Hurrelmann’s access to research is characterized by socialization theory. Central to the theory of socialization is the tension between the individual and society. Hurrelmann’s approach focusses on the influence of society on the personality development of the people living within this society. He develops theories and models on the personality and performance development, taking biographical and demographic changes and pedagogical fields of action like family, pre-school facilities, schools and youth centers into account and putting them to the practical test in cooperation with teachers and pedagogues. In addition, the programs are reviewed and verified with solid methods of empirical social research.

Most noted and also often discussed at schools and universities, particularly in pedagogy, social sciences and health sciences, is his “Model of Productive Processing of Reality (PPR)”. The core assumption of this model is that “personality does not form independently from society any of its functions or dimensions but is continuously being shaped, in a concrete, historically conveyed life world, throughout the entire space of the life span” ("Social Structure and Personality Development", Cambridge University Press, 1988, reissued 2009, p. 42).

The PPR model places the human subject in a social and ecological context that must be absorbed and processed subjectively. The human being as an autonomous subject has the lifelong task to harmonize the processes of social integration and personal individualization. This task is mastered in specific steps that are typical for the respective age and the achieved developmental stage.

Childhood and adolescence research[edit]

In his theoretical approaches to childhood and adolescence research, Klaus Hurrelmann works with the concept of life phases. In his view, “adolescence” has become a distinct phase of about 15 years intervening between childhood and adulthood. This phase of life has thus become some kind of experimental laboratory for new forms of coping with the challenges of life.

The central developmental tasks of adolescence are qualification, bonding, regeneration, consumption, and participation. The overarching goal is the formation of a unique and distinctive personal identity. At the same time, the role of a socially integrated citizen must be assumed. In this sense, socialization is considered as a complex lifelong task and a prerequisite for mental and physical health.

According to Hurrelmann, social background and gender are the main determinants for the successful completion of the developmental tasks to be mastered during this phase of life. In this regard, male adolescents seem to have problems coping with these developmental tasks to an increasing extent ("Health Risks and Developmental Transitions in Adolescence", together with Schulenberg and Maggs, Cambridge University Press 1997).

Health research[edit]

In addition to socialization, "health" is a key term in Hurrelmann's work. He defines health as "the objective and subjective state of well-being that is present when the physical, psychological, and social aspects development of a person is in harmony with her/his own possibilities, goals, and prevailing living conditions ("Human Development and Health", Springer 1989, p.5). Thus, health is composed of physical, psychological, and social aspects which influence each other reciprocally. Health is closely connected to individual and collective value systems and behavior patterns which are manifest in personal life-styles. It is a state of equilibrium which must be continuously maintained during the life course."

Thus, the definition of health used here is based on the same theoretical premises as the concept of socialization. Health is regarded as a part of the individual's development during the life course; as a process that can only take place when an individual is able to be flexible and effective in coping with internal and external demands, to achieve a satisfactory sense of continuity in experiencing him/herself, and to effect personality growth in accordance with and in consideration of the respective interaction partners. Health reflects the subjective processing of and coping with social conditions ("Human Development and Health", Springer 1989, p.5).


In addition to the text books already mentioned, Klaus Hurrelmann has in cooperation with colleagues from various disciplines published comprehensive handbooks, such as the “International Handbook of Public Health”, as well as the anthologies “Social Problems and Social Contexts in Adolescence” and “Health Risks and Developmental Transitions During Adolescence”.

Textbooks in German and English[edit]
  • Einführung in die Kindheitsforschung (2003) (Introduction to Childhood Research). Weinheim: Beltz, ISBN 3-407-25440-7
  • Einführung in die Sozialisationstheorie (2006) (Introduction to Socialization Theory). Weinheim: Beltz, ISBN 3-407-25282-X
  • Erziehungssystem und Gesellschaft (1975) (Educational System and Society). Reinbek: Rowohlt
  • Gesundheitssoziologie (2010) (Sociology of Health). Weinheim: Juventa
  • Gewalt an Schulen (2007) (Violence in Schools). Weinheim: Beltz
  • Human Development and Health (1989). New York. Springer
  • Kinder stark machen für das Leben (2008) (The Empowerment of Children). Freiburg: Herder
  • Lebensphase Jugend (2012) (Adolescence as a Phase of Life). Weinheim: Beltz Juventa
  • Lehrbuch Prävention und Gesundheitsförderung (2010) (Prevention and Intervention Reader). Bern: Huber
  • Social Structure and Personality Development (1988). New York. Cambridge University Press
  • Sozialisation. Das Modell der produktiven Realitätsverarbeitung (2012) (Socialization. The Model of Productive Processing of Reality). Weinheim: Beltz
Handbooks/readers in German and English[edit]
  • Armut bei Kindern und Jugendlichen (2001) (Poverty in Childhood and Adolescence). Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag
  • Bildungsverlierer (2010) (Education Poverty). Wiesbaden: VS
  • Geschlecht, Gesundheit und Krankheit (2002) (Gender, Health and Illness). Bern: Huber
  • Gesundheitliche Ungleichheit (2006) (Health Inequalities). Wiesbaden: VS
  • Handbuch Gesundheitswissenschaften (2012) (Handbook of Health Sciences). Weinheim: Beltz Juventa
  • Handbuch der Sozialisationsforschung (2008) (Handbook of Socialization Research). Weinheim: Beltz
  • Health Hazards in Adolescence (1990). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter
  • Health Risks and Developmental Transitions during Adolescence (1997). New York: Cambridge University Press
  • Individualization in Childhood and Adolescence (1996). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter
  • International Handbook of Public Health (1996). Westport: Greenwood Publishers
  • International Handbook of Adolescence (1994). Westport: Greenwood Publishers
  • Social Network and Social Support in Childhood and Adolescence (1994). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter
  • Social Problems and Social Contexts in Adolescence (1996). New York: Aldine
Empirical studies in German[edit]
  • 14th Shell Youth Study (2002). Frankfurt: S. Fischer
  • 15th Shell Youth Study (2006). Frankfurt: S. Fischer
  • 16th Shell Youth Study (2010). Frankfurt: S. Fischer
  • Abweichendes Verhalten in der Schule (1973) (Deviant Behaviour in School) Weinheim: Juventa
  • Alltagsstress bei Jugendlichen (1991) (Daily Hassles in Adolescence). Weinheim: Juventa
  • Gesundheit, Ungleichheit und jugendliche Lebenswelten (2008)(Health, Inequality and Adolescent Lifeworlds). Weinheim: Juventa
  • Illegale Alltagsdrogen (1999) (Illegal Drugs in Everyday Life). Weinheim: Juventa
  • Jugendgesundheitssurvey (2003) (Youth Health Survey). Weinheim: Juventa
  • Jugend, Vorsorge, Finanzen (2010) (Adolescence and Financial Provision). Frankfurt: Campus
  • Kinder 2007. 1. World Vision Kinderstudie (German Children Study). Frankfurt: S. Fischer
  • Kinder 2010. 2. World Vision Kinderstudie (2010)(German Children Study). Frankfurt: S. Fischer
  • Psychosoziale Belastung im Jugendalter (1989) (Psychosocial Risks in Adolescence). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter
  • Was Jugendliche wagen (1998) (Adolescents with Risk Behavior). Weinheim: Juventa

External links[edit]