Research news: children's well-being, poetry structures, gut bacteria of 100-year-olds, and forest mortality

Social Sciences

Children's well-being depends on the family type 

Families have become substantially more complex in Europe over the past fifty years. Cohabitation, divorce, nonmarital childbearing and multi-partner fertility have become more common. Children find it easiest to live with two biological parents. Living with a single parent is perceived to be more complex, and living with a stepparent the most complex. This was shown both by children's satisfaction with the people they live with and their appraisals of parenting practices. However, researchers believe that children can be flexible and adapt to new parent figures in their home if there is a caring and safe atmosphere where they feel part of the family. These are the findings of University of Tartu researchers who analysed an international study on children's well-being among 12-year-olds in Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Poland and Romania. 

Read more in the article published in Social Sciences
Further information: 
Oliver Nahkur, Research Fellow of Research of Social Well-being,
Dagmar Kutsar, Associate Professor in Social Policy, 


Arts and Humanities

Kaplinski's and Rummo's poetry differ in their anatomy 

The figurative message of Jaan Kaplinski's poems gathers around a leitmotif, while Paul-Erik Rummo's poems are characterised by a more diffuse distribution of plot across a diverse range of meanings. Whereas Kaplinski's text has more "spine" to it, Rummo's has more "ribs", as can be seen by analysing the structure of the writers' poems using a visualising pragmapoetic research method. This approach is based on the linguistic theory of poetic function developed by Roman Jakobson, which interprets poetry as connected speech. 

Read more in the article published in Methis
Further information: Arne Merilai, Professor of Estonian Literature, 



What can we see from the gut microbiota of centenarians? 

Human gastrointestinal microbiota develops during the first years and remains relatively stable until the end of life. University of Tartu researchers compared the gut microbiota as well as the living and eating habits of centenarians with that of young people. They found that the gut microbiota of 100-year-olds is more diverse and richer in species: it has more hereditary and environmental microbes. This may be because older people ate more potatoes and cereal products rich in fibre, their childhood homes lacked running water and sewage, and they had more contact with farm animals. At the same time, the young people's gut microbiota contained more bacteria that produce the butyric acid that maintains gut health and accompanies the consumption of animal protein. The results of this study extend our understanding of the impact of childhood environment and diet on the development and stability of the microbiota in long-lived people. 

Read more in the article published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.  
Further information: Epp Sepp, Associate Professor in Medical Microbiology, 


Science and Technology

How does climate change affect forest mortality in Europe? 

Studies of vegetation data over the past 25 years have shown that particularly long and intense droughts affect forest mortality. In Europe, the mortality rates for conifers have increased by 40–60 per cent, less so for broadleaves. Researchers found significant overall and species-specific increasing trends in mortality rates accompanied by decreasing soil moisture. Previous-year soil moisture anomaly has a stronger influence on mortality rates than current-year soil moisture, suggesting that legacy effects play a key role in actual forest decline. Past environmental conditions can directly affect the structure of the plant as well as the functioning of its cells. The effect can also occur indirectly through other organisms, such as an attack by bark beetles. 

Read more in the article published in Plant Biology.
Further information: Jan Peter George, Research Fellow in Remote Sensing, 

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