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Birth order and alcohol-related mortality by ethnic origin and national context : Within-family comparisons for Finland and Sweden

2021-09-20

Background: Previous studies have found that birth order is an important predictor of later life health, including hospitalisation for alcohol use. We examine the relationship between birth order and alcohol-related mortality in two national contexts, within native families who differ on ethnic origin.

Methods: We study the association between birth order and alcohol-related mortality after age 17, using Finnish register data for cohorts born 1953-1999 and Swedish register data for cohorts born 1940-1999. We apply Cox proportional hazard models and use sibling fixed effects that eliminate confounding by factors shared by siblings. We separate full-sibling groups by ethnic origin, which for Finland means mother's and father's Finnish or Swedish ethnolinguistic affiliation. For Sweden, we distinguish native-born according to whether one or both parents were born in Sweden or Finland.

Results: We find a positive correlation between birth order and alcohol-related mortality, but only for ethnic Finns in Finland and primarily men. Within these sibling groups, second-borns have an alcohol-related mortality risk that is 9% higher than that of first-borns, third-borns 19 % higher, fourth-borns 22 % higher, and fifth- or higher-borns 47 % higher. No such birth order associations can be found for any of the other ethnic groups analysed in Finland or Sweden.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that cultural-related behaviours typical for ethnic groups, and the national context in which they are studied, are relevant for whether any association between birth order and alcoholrelated mortality can be observed. Differences in the social interplay within the family may be an important factor.

Modelling cultural systems and selective filters

2021-08-25

A specific goal of the field of cultural evolution is to understand how processes of transmission and selection at the individual level lead to population-wide patterns of cultural diversity and change. Models of cultural evolution have typically assumed that traits are independent of one another and essentially exchangeable. But culture has a structure: traits bear relationships to one another that affect the transmission and selection process itself. Here, we introduce a modelling framework to explore the effect of interdependencies on the process of learning. Through simulations, we find that introducing a simple structure changes the cultural dynamics. Based on a basic filtering mechanism for parsing trait relationships, more elaborate cultural filters emerge. In a mostly incompatible cultural domain of traits, these filters organize culture into mostly (but not fully) consistent and stable systems. Incompatible domains produce small homogeneous cultures, while more compatibility increases size, diversity and group divergence. When individuals copy based on a trait's features (here, its compatibility relationships), they produce more homogeneous cultures than when they copy based on the agent carrying the cultural trait. We discuss the implications of considering cultural systems and filters in the dynamics of cultural change. This article is part of the theme issue 'Foundations of cultural evolution'.

Underappreciated features of cultural evolution

2021-08-25

Cultural evolution theory has long been inspired by evolutionary biology. Conceptual analogies between biological and cultural evolution have led to the adoption of a range of formal theoretical approaches from population dynamics and genetics. However, this has resulted in a research programme with a strong focus on cultural transmission. Here, we contrast biological with cultural evolution, and highlight aspects of cultural evolution that have not received sufficient attention previously. We outline possible implications for evolutionary dynamics and argue that not taking them into account will limit our understanding of cultural systems. We propose 12 key questions for future research, among which are calls to improve our understanding of the combinatorial properties of cultural innovation, and the role of development and life history in cultural dynamics. Finally, we discuss how this vibrant research field can make progress by embracing its multidisciplinary nature. This article is part of the theme issue 'Foundations of cultural evolution'.

Impact and Design of a National-scale Professional Development Program for Mathematics Teachers

2021-06-17

By examining the effects of a national-scale teacher professional development (PD) program on instructional practices and student mathematics achievement, we contribute to calls for empirical studies investigating the impacts of such programs conducted at scale. The program corresponds well with core critical features of high-quality teacher PD and mathematics instruction identified in the literature, and the results indicate that it has had a small but statistical significant impact on teachers' instructional practices. However, no effect was found for student achievement. These results raise questions as to the importance of the critical features and how programs incorporating all of them affect instructional practices and student achievement.

Perceptions of the appropriate response to norm violation in 57 societies

2021-05-26

Norm enforcement may be important for resolving conflicts and promoting cooperation. However, little is known about how preferred responses to norm violations vary across cultures and across domains. In a preregistered study of 57 countries (using convenience samples of 22,863 students and non-students), we measured perceptions of the appropriateness of various responses to a violation of a cooperative norm and to atypical social behaviors. Our findings highlight both cultural universals and cultural variation. We find a universal negative relation between appropriateness ratings of norm violations and appropriateness ratings of responses in the form of confrontation, social ostracism and gossip. Moreover, we find the country variation in the appropriateness of sanctions to be consistent across different norm violations but not across different sanctions. Specifically, in those countries where use of physical confrontation and social ostracism is rated as less appropriate, gossip is rated as more appropriate. Little is known about people's preferred responses to norm violations across countries. Here, in a study of 57 countries, the authors highlight cultural similarities and differences in people's perception of the appropriateness of norm violations.

Vaccine confidence is higher in more religious countries

2021-04-14

Vaccine hesitancy is a threat to global health, but it is not ubiquitous; depending on the country, the proportion that have confidence in vaccines ranges from a small minority to a huge majority. Little is known about what explains this dramatic variation in vaccine confidence. We hypothesize that variation in religiosity may play a role because traditional religious teachings are likely to be incompatible with the specific magical/spiritual health beliefs that often undergird anti-vaccination sentiments. In analyses of publicly available data in 147 countries, we find that a country measure of religiosity is strongly positively correlated with country measures of confidence in the safety, importance, and effectiveness of vaccines, and these associations are robust to controlling for measures of human development (education, economic development, and health). The underlying mechanism needs to be examined in future research.

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