Examining Guyanese Youth’s Contribution to the Household’s Well-Being Through Domestic Work
Researcher: Evanna Singh
In many societies, children and adolescents are considered important producers of resources and services promoting their families’ wellbeing. Youth can earn income from economic work or free parents’ time by assisting in domestic work including childcare. Much of this research relies on hypotheses that focus on the effects of children’s work on parents’ reproductive success, rarely considering the benefits and costs for the youth-helper. This study of youth (aged 0-17 years) in Guyana has three main objectives. The first is to determine in the ways in which differences in rural and urban settings in Guyana affect youth’s activity patterns, energy expenditure, and well-being. The second is to evaluate the cost and benefits (to themselves and to others) of youth’s activities in order to test predictions derived from the “cooperative breeding hypothesis” and “parent-offspring conflict theory”. This will be done by examining the impact of youth’s helping behavior (specifically, in domestic work) on: (1) parents’ time allocation and reproductive success, (2) siblings’ time allocation and well-being, and (3) the youth’s own well-being. The third objective is to determine both Guyanese adults and youths’ perspectives of their contributions to the household, and the cultural norms and ideals influencing decision-making regarding assignment of household chores. These personal perspectives and cultural norms/ideals will be compared between rural and urban contexts.
Cortisol and Reproductive Functioning in German Women
Researcher: Caroline Deimel
Stress has been proposed as a potentially disruptive factor of women’s reproductive functioning that could inhibit reproductive physiology in otherwise fertile individuals. Whereas amenorrhea is easily diagnosed, more subtle manifestations of reproductive suppression may occur in healthy women that require frequent, long-term sampling to analyze associated hormones. Few studies have investigated the relationship between the stress hormone cortisol and female reproductive hormones in healthy women over at least one menstrual cycle.
This study investigates the association between variation in cortisol and variation in ovarian functioning in healthy, cycling German women. Daily urine samples over one cycle are analyzed using liquid-chromatography-tandem-mass-spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), a superior method that permits analysis of dozens of steroid metabolites, including progesterone, estrogen and cortisol metabolites, with great specificity with one measurement. The steroid measurements will be related to cycle parameters, anthropometrics, and lifestyle indicators.
Evolutionary models of women’s reproductive functioning have hypothesized that activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis, a hormonal cascade that leads to the production of cortisol, by environmental and psychological stressors may be a mechanism for the suppression of reproductive functioning during less favorable conditions for reproduction. As pathobiological processes like osteoporosis are caused and exacerbated by loss of ovarian functioning, it is important to further explore the relationship between ovarian functioning and stress.
This project is conducted in collaboration with Tobias Deschner, head of the Endocrinology Laboratory at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.
Women’s Wellbeing Study
Though our society is constantly debating what’s “normal” and “healthy,” there is surprisingly little data on how healthy women’s well-being fluctuates on a day-to-day basis. The goal of this study is to understand how women’s experiences of well-being change through time, and to investigate how some women’s experiences are impacted once they begin using an oral contraceptive. To do this, we are seeking healthy women between the ages of 18 and 35, who are either not using any form of hormonal contraceptive, or who are about to begin using an oral contraceptive. Participation requires an entrance and exit interview with the researchers at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, but participants collect most of their own data in the comfort of their own homes.