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Research programme Child Development

Research Institute of Child Development and Education

The aim of the Research Program Child Development (RPCD) is to gain knowledge on variations in typical and atypical child development, and on preventive and clinical intervention programs that can be used to effectively support child development

Our main research lines cover both normative and non-normative or atypical developmental trajectories, person-environment and (epi)gene-environment transactions, child maltreatment and juvenile delinquency, the role of family diversity in child and adolescent development, and the effectiveness, effective elements and working mechanisms of pedagogical interventions.

The research goals of RPCD are:

  • to gain knowledge and advance theory on both normative child development and manifestation of mild-to-severe internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, and the concomitant child-rearing and educational problems across different social contexts;
  • to gain knowledge and advance theory on the etiological processes underlying developmental risks for vulnerable infants, children, adolescents, and young adults, by examining transactions between risk and protective factors across social contexts;
  •  to develop, evaluate and improve preventive interventions and orthopedagogical and forensic treatments that target different child upbringing contexts to decrease internalizing and externalizing problems.
  • Preventive Youth Care

    This research group aims to identify the protective and empowering factors that help parents and their children to thrive. We do this by conducting intervention studies in families, schools, and peer groups, but also by conducting fundamental research to identify pathways of child and adolescent resilience, adaption and maladaptation over time.

    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.

    Prof. dr. G.J. (Geertjan) Overbeek


  • Developmental Psychopathology

    Our research group studies the development of psychopathology and how it can be prevented or treated. Key to our approach is understanding and changing the mechanisms that maintain problematic development, such as family interaction patterns, social information processing, and self-views, as well as moderating effects of child temperament and social contexts. To this end, we integrate experimental, longitudinal, and intervention studies.

    This approach does not only incease our understanding of social development, but directly contributes to more effective (preventive) interventions that are increasingly used by children, parents, teachers, and clinicians, with demonstrated lasting benefits. 

    The main problems we study and intervene with are:

    • Internalising child problems (behavior inhibition, compulsions, anxiety disorders, and depression)
    • Externalising behavior problems (disruptive behavior, aggressive behavior, rule breaking)
    • Early problematic family interaction patterns (coercion, overprotection)
    Prof. dr. B. (Bram) Orobio de Castro

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Developmental psychopathology

  • Forensic Child and Youth Care

    The research group examines serious problems in children, adolescents, and young adults and families that warrant immediate or future judicial intervention enforced by civil, administrative or criminal courts.

    The question of whether and, if so, under what circumstances the state should intervene in families and other educationally relevant contexts, confronts Forensic Child and Youth Care Sciences with major ethical, societal, and judicial issues. Therefore, Forensic Child and Youth Care Sciences are also rooted in legal science, sociology, criminology and developmental and clinical psychology.

    The main aims of the research group are:

    • To examine the prevalence, incidence and aetiology of serious behaviour problems, such as juvenile delinquency, in children, adolescents and young adults;
    • To evaluate judicial interventions targeting serious problems in children, adolescents, young adults and families (including child abuse and neglect);
    • To improve methods for collecting and evaluating data in the field of Forensic Child and Youth Care Sciences.
    Prof. dr. G.J.J.M. (Geert-Jan) Stams

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Forensic Child and Youth Care

  • Methods and Statistics

    This research group consist of 8 researchers in philosophy, psychometrics, and statistics, 4 PhD-students, 2 lecturers, and 1 data steward. Their research topics pertain to the conceptualization, the measurement, and the modelling of constructs used in education and child development, and include:

    • foundations of educational research
    • intelligence
    • nonparametric item response theory
    • interrater reliability
    • computer adaptive testing 
    • measurement invariance
    • meta-analysis
    • longitudinal data analysis
    • (non-standard) structural equations modelling
    • social networks, and 
    • learning analytics

    As of November 2020, the methods and statistics research group have two VENI laureates, and one Open-Competition laureate.

    As methodological and statistical experts, the researchers of the methods and statistics group also support and participate in the research of the other research groups in child development and education.

    Prof. dr. F.J. (Frans) Oort

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Methods and statistics