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 January 10, 1944 in Gdynia and studied sociology, psychology and education in Berkeley (USA), Freiburg and Münster.


Fleeing from Gdynia to escape the approaching Red Army, Klaus Hurrelmann and his mother first went to Leipzig. After his father returned from being a prisoner of war at the end of 1947, the family moved to North Germany where he grew up in Nordenham. The alienation of war impeded the father–son relationship, and this was further burdened by his father’s overt sympathy for National Socialism. Being good at school, he gained a place at Gymnasium (the German grammar school) supported by his mother but dismissed as a “nerd" by his father. He was involved in criminal activities, convicted by a juvenile court, and dismissed from school. After he left Nordenham, he took his Abitur (university entrance qualification) at the Humboldtschule in Bremerhaven.

Klaus Hurrelmann first married Bettina Hurrelmann, who later became Professor of German Studies at the University of Cologne. They have one daughter and one son. His second marriage is with Doris Schaeffer, Professor of Public Health, Nursing and Health Sciences Research at Bielefeld University, who brought one son into the marriage.


Klaus Hurrelmann studied sociology, psychology, and education at the universities in Münster and Freiburg as well as at the University of California in Berkeley (USA). He gained his diploma in sociology in 1968. He was awarded a doctorate in Sociology at the University of Münster in 1971 for his work on the social and institutional determinants of education. In 1975, he gained his postdoctoral habilitation at Bielefeld University for work on the educational system and society.

Academic career[edit]

Klaus Hurrelmann started his academic career as a research assistant. In 1975, he became Professor of Education and Socialization at the University of Essen. In 1980, he was appointed Professor of Socialization Research at Bielefeld University. Hurrelmann was the first Dean of the newly founded Faculty of Educational Science. In 1986, he founded the Collaborative Research Centre “Sonderforschungsbereich Prevention and Intervention in Childhood and Adolescence.” Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), this Centre was made up of as many as 15 interdisciplinary research teams. In 1993, Klaus Hurrelmann switched to the newly founded Faculty of Health Sciences at Bielefeld. He was elected the Founding Dean and was responsible for building up what is still the only complete School of Public Health in Germany. In the Faculty of Health Sciences, he took over research in the field of prevention and health promotion. Commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), he founded the Collaboration Centre for Child and Adolescent Health Promotion. This Centre coordinates the representative health survey of 11- to 15-year-olds in Germany carried out throughout Europe as part of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study. Each assessment wave includes more than 6,000 randomly selected school children from all parts of Germany. From 1996 to 2004, he was also Director of the Institut für Bevölkerungsforschung und Sozialpolitik (Institute for demographic research and social policy).

In March 2009, Klaus Hurrelmann became Professor of Public Health and Education at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. His main research interest is in merging social, educational, and health policy to develop comprehensive intervention strategies for preventing social disadvantage and health impairments in childhood and adolescence. Since March 2010, Hurrelmann has been a member of the Federal Minister of the Interior’s Council of Experts on Demography that advises the committees of the Secretaries of State of various Federal Ministries on demographic trends.


Prize of the Swiss Dr. Margrit Egnér Foundation for his life's work (with an award of 25,000 Swiss francs), 2003.


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 serves as a managing team member of the German Children and Youth Surveys ("Shell Youth Studies" and "World Vision Children Studies"), the German Young Adults' Studies on Financial Literacy, the German Family Survey ("AOK Familienstudie"), and as International Coordinator of youth studies in 15 East European and Central Asian countires funded by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

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. He defines socialization as the individual’s personality development resulting from productively processing internal and external reality. An individual’s internal reality is formed by bodily and mental dispositions and traits; the external reality, by the properties of the social and physical environment. The processing of reality is productive because individuals continuously live their lives actively and try to master the developmental tasks they have to face.

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. Across the entire life span, individuals master this task in age-appropriate steps matching their level of development. These “developmental tasks” are: education/qualification, attachment/social contacts, consumption/regeneration, and participation/value orientation. In this sense, socialization consists in a complex “continuous work on one’s own personality.” It may succeed, but, under unfavorable conditions, it may also fail. Failure leads to problems with identity, personality, and health. His socialization theory is presented in his textbook Social Structure and Personality Development; his socialization research in his Handbuch der Sozialisationsforschung (Handbook of socialization research).

Childhood,adolescence, and generation research[edit]

Klaus Hurrelmann has concentrated on applying his developmental task concept to the life phases of childhood and adolescence. The textbook Einführung in die Kindheitsforschung (Introduction to childhood research, together with Heidrun Bründel) and the book Kindheit (Childhood, together with Sabine Andresen) list the central developmental tasks in infancy and early childhood as gaining a basic emotional trust, developing communication skills and attachment behavior, developing the ability to express oneself verbally, identifying with one’s own gender, and building up basic sensory and motor skills. In later childhood from the age of six onward, these tasks are joined by developing female or male role behavior; learning basic skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic; and forming competencies in dealing with the media and leisure time. This approach understands children as autonomous subjects who are productively engaged in shaping their lives.

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).

Klaus Hurrelmann also conceives adolescence as an autonomous life phase that has inserted itself between childhood and adulthood over the last 100 years. This phase of life generally lasts for about 15 years. Nowadays, it is beginning earlier than ever before in human history, because children reach puberty at an increasingly early age. At the other end, however, adolescence is more open than ever before and has become basically unplannable. This impacts on the mastering of developmental tasks in the areas of education and qualification; the separation from parents and the development of own attachments; the acquisition of competencies as a consumer, economic citizen, and user of leisure time; and participation in politics and society.

Drawing on the work of Karl Mannheim and Helmut Schelsky, Klaus Hurrelmann links this approach to generational research. His aim is to work out how technological, economic, and political events shape personality in generation-specific ways. This reveals how the need to deal permanently with unpredictable futures and uncertain life perspectives is leading to a mentality of tentatively probing and pragmatically testing alternatives in the young generation born between 1985 and 2000. Klaus Hurrelmann calls these members of the current young generation, which he also labels “Generation Y,” “ego tacticians.” He analyzes this concept theoretically together with Gudrun Quenzel in the textbook Lebensphase Jugend (Life phase adolescence) and describes it together with Erik Albrecht in the book Die heimlichen Revolutionäre (The secret revolutionaries).

His theoretical approaches to adolescence have been applied in many empirical studies. Alongside the Collaborative Research Centre “Prevention and Intervention in Childhood and Adolescence,” these particularly include the Shell Youth Studies. Klaus Hurrelmann designed the new generation of Shell Youth Studies that have been carried out since 2002 together with the Infratest Sozialforschung social research institute. The most recent one was published in October 2015.

Recently, these have been joined by studies on vocational training and career choices in youth commissioned by McDonald‘s Deutschland and on future pensions and finances of adolescents and young adults commissioned by the pension insurance carrier MetallRente. The plan is to also repeat these every three to four years. In addition, there are also several youth studies on European and Asian countries.

Educational research[edit]

Klaus Hurrelmann’s work in educational research focuses on how the starting conditions in families along with the way schools are organized determine academic success and failure. In Germany, success at school depends particularly strongly on a student’s family origins. Klaus Hurrelmann uses his socialization theory to explain this in terms of differences in the guidance and support given by parents.

Klaus Hurrelmann’s studies show how the design of the school system and the teaching process also contribute to the poor performance of children from families with low socioeconomic status. The early tracking of students into the three-tier system of Hauptschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium following elementary school systematically disadvantages children who receive little encouragement to learn in their families. Ever since the 1970s, Klaus Hurrelmann has been calling for Hauptschule, Realschule, and comprehensive schools to be merged into one type of integrated school with its own senior classes oriented toward the labor market and careers that will offer an educational alternative to the academic Gymnasium. This should reduce the pressure on parents and children to decide on the future course of education at the young age of 10 years. All school-leaving qualifications should be possible at both types of school.

This approach, which he calls the “two-path model,” was introduced in the East German federal states in 1989/90 following the unification of the two Germanys. Since then, many West German federal states have also adopted this reform.

Klaus Hurrelmann emphasizes the need to promote both achievement-related and social competencies in all educational institutes. An important element of such approaches is to integrate the promotion of exercise, good nutrition, and relaxation techniques in school curricula to help children and adolescents to master their age-specific developmental tasks. Klaus Hurrelmann also calls for parents and professional childcare and teaching personnel to cooperate intensively in negotiating their different childrearing concepts. He bases this approach on a “3A-magical childrearing triangle” with the three poles “Anerkennung” (recognition), “Anregung” (encouragement), and “Anleitung” (guidance). He also supports compulsory parent training and favors the introduction of a symbolic “parenting license.”

These suggestions have been integrated into a number of different programs. One particularly well-known program is called Erwachsen Werden (Growing up). Developed under Klaus Hurrelmann’s scientific supervision, this program funded by the Lions Quest charity is now running at more than 6,000 schools. Other programs he is supporting include the parent training program STEP and the Gesetze des Schulerfolgs (GdS) (Laws for success at school).

Health research[edit]

Klaus Hurrelmann’s work in health research focuses on the interface between the sociology of health and health education. He has taken a leading role in this field through the programmatic books Handbuch der Gesundheitswissenschaften (Handbook of health sciences) and Prävention und Gesundheitsförderung (Prevention and health promotion).

His definition of health has been very influential: “Health denotes the state of well-being in individuals when their mental and social situation matches their potentials and goals within the specifically given external living conditions.” Health is accordingly the state of balance between risk and protective factors that emerges when an individual succeeds in mastering both internal (bodily and mental) and external (social and material) demands. It grants the individual well-being and vitality.

This definition to be found in the textbook Human Development and Health (Springer 1989, p. 5)is now being viewed as a further development of the traditional definition of health from the World Health Organization (WHO). It is being applied in many disciplines within the health sciences.

An important line of research for Klaus Hurrelmann is prevention and health promotion. Many of his research projects have focused on the social determinants of health and illness in children and adolescents. They show how the social inequality among children and adolescents in Germany also extends to health. These empirical studies were carried out in the WHO Collaborating Centre and were designed to permit international comparisons. They focused particularly on analyzing the health-related behavior of children and adolescents.


Textbooks in German and English[edit]

  • Einführung in die Kindheitsforschung (2003) (Introduction to Childhood Research). Weinheim: Beltz, ISBN 978-3407252821
  • Einführung in die Sozialisationstheorie (2006) (Introduction to Socialization Theory). Weinheim: Beltz, ISBN 978-3407254405
  • Erziehungssystem und Gesellschaft (1975) (Educational System and Society). Reinbek: Rowohlt, ISBN 978-3499210709
  • Gesundheits- und Medizinsoziologie (2010) (Sociology of Health and Medicine). Weinheim: Juventa, ISBN 978-3779926054
  • Human Development and Health (1989). New York. Springer, ISBN 978-3642743306
  • Kinder stark machen für das Leben (2010) (The Empowerment of Children). Freiburg: Herder, ISBN 978-3451612558
  • Kindheit (2010)(Childhood). Weinheim: Beltz, ISBN 978-3407342027
  • Lebensphase Jugend (2013) (Adolescence as a Phase of Life). Weinheim: Beltz Juventa, ISBN 978-3779926061
  • Lehrbuch Prävention und Gesundheitsförderung (2014) (Prevention and Intervention Reader). Bern: Huber, Huber; ISBN 978-3456853192
  • Social Structure and Personality Development (2009). New York. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521357470

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, ISBN 978-3531171753
  • Geschlecht und Gesundheit(2016) (Gender and Health). Göttingen: Hogrefe, ISBN 978-3456854663
  • Gesundheitliche Ungleichheit (2006) (Health Inequalities). Wiesbaden: VS, ISBN 978-3531160849
  • Handbuch Gesundheitswissenschaften (2015) (Handbook of Health Sciences). Weinheim: Beltz Juventa, ISBN 978-3779907978
  • Handbuch der Sozialisationsforschung(2015)(Handbook of Socialization Research). Weinheim: Beltz, ISBN 978-3407831835
  • Health Hazards in Adolescence (1990). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, ISBN 978-3110124484
  • Health Risks and Developmental Transitions during Adolescence (1997). New York: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521480536
  • Individualization in Childhood and Adolescence (1996). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, ISBN 978-3110146813
  • International Handbook of Public Health (1996). Westport: Greenwood Publishers, ISBN 978-0313295003
  • International Handbook of Adolescence (1994). Westport: Greenwood Publishers, ISBN 978-0313285844
  • Jungen als Bildungsverlierer (2012). Weinheim: Beltz, ISBN 978-3779927501
  • Social Networks and Social Support in Childhood and Adolescence (1994). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, ISBN 978-3110143607
  • Social Problems and Social Contexts in Adolescence (1996). New York: Aldine, ISBN 978-0202361017
  • Soziologie von Gesundheit und Krankheit (2016). Wiesbaden: Springer, ISBN 978-3658110109
  • Staatshilfe für Eltern (2013). Weinheim: Beltz Juventa, ISBN 978-3779927525

Empirical studies in German[edit]

  • [with Heidrun Bründel] (2007): Gewalt an Schulen. Pädagogische Antworten auf eine soziale Krise. Beltz, Weinheim, Basel, ISBN 978-3-407-22184-1.
  • McDonald's Ausbildungsstudie (2015). München: Reprodukt; http://ausbildungsstudie2015.de/
  • 14th Shell Youth Study (2002). Frankfurt: S. Fischer, ISBN 978-3596158492
  • 15th Shell Youth Study (2006). Frankfurt: S. Fischer, ISBN 978-3596172139
  • 16th Shell Youth Study (2010). Frankfurt: S. Fischer, ISBN 978-3596188574
  • 17th Shell Youth Study (2015). Frankfurt: S. Fischer, ISBN 978-3596034017
  • Abweichendes Verhalten in der Schule (1973) (Deviant Behaviour in School) Weinheim: Juventa, ISBN 978-3779906117
  • Alltagsstress bei Jugendlichen (1991) (Daily Hassles in Adolescence). Weinheim: Juventa, ISBN 978-3779904205
  • Gesundheit, Ungleichheit und jugendliche Lebenswelten (2008)(Health, Inequality and Adolescent Lifeworlds). Weinheim: Juventa, ISBN 978-3779919711
  • Illegale Alltagsdrogen (1999) (Illegal Drugs in Everyday Life). Weinheim: Juventa, ISBN 978-3779904687
  • Jugendgesundheitssurvey(2003)(Youth Health Survey). Weinheim: Juventa, ISBN 978-3779911999
  • Jugend, Vorsorge, Finanzen(2010)(Adolescence and Financial Provision). Frankfurt: Campus, ISBN 978-3593393285
  • Jugend, Vorsorge, Finanzen (2013) (Adolescence and Financial Provision). Weinheim: Beltz Juventa, ISBN 978-3779928812
  • Jugend, Vorsorge, Finanzen(2016)(Adolescence and Financial Provision). Weinheim: Beltz Juventa, ISBN 978-3779933694
  • Kinder 2007. 1. World Vision Kinderstudie (German Children Study). Frankfurt: S. Fischer, ISBN 978-3596177202
  • Kinder 2010. 2. World Vision Kinderstudie (2010) (German Children Study). Frankfurt: S. Fischer, ISBN 978-3596186402
  • Kinder 2013. 3. World Vision Kinderstudie (2013) (German Children Study). Weinheim: Beltz, ISBN 978-3407859501
  • Psychosoziale Belastung im Jugendalter (1989)(Psychosocial Risks in Adolescence). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, ISBN 978-3110116960
  • Was Jugendliche wagen (1998) (Adolescents with Risk Behavior). Weinheim: Juventa, ISBN 978-3779904281

External links[edit]