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Preventive Youth Care

Research Institute of Child Development and Education

Examples of our intervention studies are studies about the effects of parent training programs (such as Incredible Years, VIPP-SD, and Family Check-up) on parenting and children’s behavior and biological processes (related to (epi)genetics and stress) and studies about the effect of social skills training and anti-bullying intervention programs.

We examine processes of resilience, adaptation or maladaptation over time in different longitudinal studies, for instance on on youth growing up in at-risk families in Amsterdam, on social-emotional development of adolescents, on temper tantrums in toddlers, on sexual minority and gender nonconforming youth, on gay and lesbian-headed families, and on social-emotional development of children in childcare centers.

Dr. P.H.O. (Patty) Leijten

Head of Research Group Preventative Youth Care


Research Projects

  • Jeopardy

    Different children deal differently with all the stimuli that come to them on a daily basis. But we still know little about why some children are more or less sensitive to these stimuli from their environment. We are investigating how biological influences (such as the functioning of genes and hormones) and parenting play a role in this. We also want to know what kind of parenting support works best for parents and children to prevent defiant and oppositional behavior.

    • Period 2018-2023
    • Funding Vici grant from NWO to Professor Geertjan Overbeek
    • Researcher/contact Professor Geertjan Overbeek
  • Family Check-Up

    Aim and Relevance:

    The aim of this research project is to assess the effects of the Family Check-Up (FCU; Dishion, 1990) in the Netherlands. The FCU is a family management intervention that is distinctive from other parenting interventions due to its brief character (i.e., only three sessions) and family-centered approach. Previous randomized controlled trial studies conducted in the Unites States and Sweden have shown positive effects for the FCU in a range of age-groups (e.g., Shaw et al., 2016; Smith et al., 2014). Besides intervention effects, this project will attend to the influence of urbanicity factors on intervention effects. Urban influences such as high population density, sensory overload, lack of green-space or environmental pollution—globally referred to as urban stress—may influence mental health (see Krabbendam et al. 2020 for an overview of current knowledge). Therefore, to gain a better understanding of what works for whom, this study will assess the influence of urbanicity on the effects of the FCU.


    The current research project aims to examine the evidence for the effectiveness for the FCU in the Netherlands. To do so, multiple studies into the effects of the FCU will be conducted.

    1. A meta-analysis will be conducted to assess the effects of the FCU found in previous international studies.
    2. The pilot-study by Scheffers-van Schayck and colleagues (under embargo) will be expanded to include a control group. This will allow us to compare the effects of the FCU to a no-treatment control group.
    3. We will also assess the effects of the FCU in the Dutch context using a longitudinal four-wave RCT-design. This study will be the first randomized controlled trial to assess the effects of FCU in the Netherlands. A secondary aim of this study is to assess intervention response trajectories of families that participated in the FCU.
    4. A final study of this research project will assess how and when the FCU changes parenting and parent/child behavior constructs.

    For this line of study, we will use ecological momentary assessments (EMA) to gain insights into the process of change that is induced by the FCU. This study will also collect qualitative data to contextualize quantitative findings, and will specifically focus on low-SES families.

    • Period: March 2020-March 2023.
    • Funding: UvA Research Priority Area Urban Mental Health.
    • Researcher/contact: Dr. Brechtje de Mooij
  • The rise of new families: how can we help them flourish?

    Since 2020, it is in the Netherlands possible for man-man couples to get a baby with the help of a surrogate and an egg donor, resulting in the first birth of a child on 5 August 2021. Likely, Dutch gay and transgender people and man-woman couples will more often use this procedure to become parents. It is, therefore, essential that counseling procedures are available to allow the children (and others involved) to develop as well as possible. Unfortunately, evidence-based guidelines for counseling are lacking. In this project, we collect the necessary knowledge to create counseling guidelines and training subsequently.

    About the project

    • PI of the consortium: Professor H.M.W. (Henny) Bos - Universiteit van Amsterdam
    • Consortium: Universiteit van Amsterdam, Hogeschool van Amsterdam, Amsterdam UMC - Locatie VUmc, Amsterdam UMC - Locatie AMC, Maastricht University, Universiteit Utrecht, Transgender Netwerk Nederland (TNN), Nij Geertgen, Stichting Zwanger voor een ander, Stichting Dutch Rainbow Family Professionals, Stichting Meer dan Gewenst.
    • The project is financed within the National Research Agenda Research on Routes by Consortia (NWA-ORC) program. The allocated amount is 1.1 million euros, and the project's duration is eight years.
    • For more information and an interview with the PI (in Dutch).
  • What works in Home-Start in supporting vulnerable families?


    Home visiting programs are broadly used to support families and to prevent family dysfunctioning. Research on the evaluation of home visiting programs has shown some promising effects for parents and children. Effects are, however, limited in magnitude and utility of home visiting has not yet been clearly demonstrated. Identifying effective components of home visiting programs may support practitioners in providing tailored - and thereby hopefully more effective - care aimed at enhancing positive parenting behavior. In this research project, we aim to identify effective components in the Home-Start program. Home-Start is a voluntary organization in which volunteers offer regular support, friendship and practical help to young families in their own homes helping to prevent family crisis or breakdown.

    Aims and methods

    • Identifying effective components of Home-Start by consulting program users and providers;
      • Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with parents and children from Home-Start families, and volunteers working at the Home-Start program. In the interviews, we ask questions about family needs, and we ask the participants to identify effective components/characteristics of the Home-Start program based on their experience.
    • Developing and implementing a ‘reflection instrument for effective components in family support’;
      • The results of the interviews will be used to develop a reflection instrument that will be implemented in coaching sessions of Home-Start volunteers for evaluative support.
    • Examining how program components contribute to the effectiveness of the Home-Start program on enhancing positive parenting behavior.
      • Using a case-control study design, we aim to examine ‘what works in Home-Start’. A number of outcome measures will be measured in questionnaires: parental wellbeing, parenting behavior, and parental perception of child behavioral problems.
      • Second, the aim is to include a small group of Home-Start families in an experience sampling study, which is also referred to as the ‘daily diary method’. In this way, we can gain insight into the feelings, thoughts, and behavior of individual caregivers in daily life.

    In brief

    • Period: January 2022-January 2025
    • Funding: ZonMw (744130104)
    • Researchers: 
    Prof. dr. G.J. (Geertjan) Overbeek

    Principal Investigator

    Dr. A.M.E. (Anne) Bijlsma

    Co-Principal Investigator

    Dr. P.J. (Peter) Hoffenaar

    Co-Principal Investigator