Dynamics of Youth as our international calling card

Social and Behavioural Sciences is the leading faculty for Dynamics of Youth (DOY) at Utrecht University. Werner Raub, professor of Sociology, is proud to have been present at the birth of Dynamics of Youth. “Doesn’t the name sounds as magnificent as what it scientifically stands for? I see Dynamics of Youth as an outstanding cooperation of social sciences, humanities and life sciences. There’s important work going on, and society will benefit greatly from it.”

At the core of all Dynamics of Youth-projects lies some form of developmental science – that's why the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences is leading this strategic UU-theme. A lot of people from the faculty play key roles in DoY-research themes. For example Catrin Finkenauer, who holds the Youth Studies Chair, Jan van Tartwijk from the Department of Education and Susan Branje in pedagogy.

Werner Raub
Professor Werner Raub

And what about his own field, sociology? “Sociologists such as myself look at the influence of peers. In DoY-research these peers would be classmates, friends, children living in the same neighborhood... So yes, DoY overlaps, to a large extent, with what sociologists do as well.”

The importance of Social Sciences

DoY is about more than fighting physical diseases or disorders, Raub points out. “If we can influence people behaviorally, we’ll all win something. This is an important aspect of DoY: it can bring to light what the social and economic harm of anti-social behavior can be. Or, to put it more positively, it can show society what we can achieve when we handle disorders like autism or anti-social behavior efficiently. There are calculation models for this, and especially DoY Programme Director Chantal Kemner knows how to explain their use to a broad audience.”


Data and integrity

Of mutual importance is a recent development in science, crucial in all scientific fields: carefulness and integrity when it comes to data. The YOUth Cohort Study collects and uses enormous amounts of data, so Kemner and her colleagues are very careful in dealing with data and providing access to it. “In this respect her group leads the way. YOUth plays an exemplary role here, not only within the UU but internationally as well.”

Feeding into education

“At university, research and education are strongly linked together; scientific results of DoY-projects are being fed into our education programs, including Research Master Programs. It works the other way round too: our colleague Jorg Huijding developed a complete online education programme based on Dynamics of Youth: the MOOC Understanding Child Development - from Synapse to Society. And some UU Summer Schools are built around the theme as well.”

DoY offers many opportunities to interest international students for University Utrecht, says Raub. “The amount of international students increases, and I’m sure DoY also contributes to this.”

“I myself am not a youth researcher; the core of my research is cooperation in social and economic networks, between adults, and between organizations as well. But when it comes to networks and influence of peers, there’s an overlap with DoY-issues. I’ll certainly contribute where I can.”