The future starts with a healthy and happy childhood

Kinderen kijken door een vergrootglas

A child's path to adulthood is influenced by a combination of factors, from biological to socio-economic, from geographical to cultural and from pedagogical to educational. Because all these influences are interrelated, Utrecht University opts for a research approach centred on 'whole child development' with its Dynamics of Youth strategic theme. In this youth research, scientists from seven faculties join forces with humanitarian and social organisations to contribute together to improving the health, well-being and participation of young people. In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, scientific director Catrin Finkenauer talks more about this unique approach.

Learn more about the focus of Dynamics of Youth here.

'Dynamics of Youth stands for the inspiration that can result when people from different disciplines come together and work together', says Finkenauer.

'Growing up cannot be viewed separately from the social and physical environment in which children and young people live. The family, the neighbourhood, the culture and the school all play a part in determining how that development proceeds. To build a future for young people, we need to have a better understanding of what it takes to tackle problems at the right level', says Catrin Finkenauer, scientific director of UU-Dynamics of Youth. 'In addition to focusing on prevention and intervention when problems arise, we must also invest in reinforcing and preserving the positive attributes and strength of the youth.' Researchers from different faculties work together with social partners within interdisciplinary teams to find answers to crucial questions for future generations. 'Connecting different disciplines, perspectives and methods of innovative research is both inspiring and provides new answers to sometimes long-standing questions', says Finkenauer.

Kinderen kijken door een vergrootglas

A research project in which a psychiatrist from UMC Utrecht, along with psychologists and educationalists affiliated with the Faculty of Social Sciences, investigated the impact of childhood trauma on DNA, is an illustrative example. They found that DNA can change after traumatic events and adapts to help prevent psychological problems such as depression from developing later in life. Finkenauer: 'Dynamics of Youth stands for the inspiration that can result when people from different disciplines come together and work together. These collaborations will help us increase the social impact of our research on young people and to build towards the future.'

The research, education and outreach programme of the Dynamics of Youth strategic theme aims to give youth development a boost, by making research data and results accessible to a wide audience, helping come up with solutions to social issues affecting youth and through knowledge exchange and education.