Assistant professor Sanne Geeraerts has been awarded a Marie Skłodowska Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship

Sanne Geeraerts, assistant professor at the Department of Youth & Family, has been awarded a Marie Skłodowska Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship. She will use the funds to conduct two years of full-time research into the transfer of parenting styles – one year in the US and one year in the Netherlands.

To what extent does the way you were brought up play a role in the upbringing of your own children? It varies: some parents have a very similar parenting style to their parents, while others do not at all. As part of her efforts to explain these differences, Sanne Geeraerts will soon be making a long trip to the north-western United States: she will visit both Oregon State University and the Oregon Social Learning Center.

Sanne: “These sites are home to group of researchers (Dr Deborah Capaldi, Dr David Kerr and Dr Stacey Tiberio) who conduct research on the intergenerational transfer of parenting, among other things. They also have experience with synthesising different data sets. In a nutshell, those are the two pillars of my research project. So it’s a good match.” After the year in Oregon, Sanne will continue her research for another year in Utrecht.

Transferring parenting dimensions

The project will start in February 2023. What will Sanne be doing? “In this project, I’ll be combining existing studies to examine which parenting dimensions are passed on to a greater or lesser extent from parents to children. For example, the extent to which parents accept their child the way he or she is, how strict they are and what kind of punishments they use. I’ll also be studying the circumstances under which this intergenerational transfer is stronger or weaker. The aim is to gain more insight into individual differences in the intergenerational transfer of parenting. The method I’ll be using is an IPD (Individual Participant Data) meta-analysis.”

Waiting for a generation

Conducting research on the intergenerational transfer of parenting is no easy task. Researchers would of course prefer to measure parenting at the moment it takes place and not afterwards, when participants are already adults. The risk that people no longer know exactly how they experienced their upbringing as a child is very high. “But in research on the intergenerational transfer of parenting, this means researchers have to wait a really long time,” Sanne explains. “It can take two or three decades before the original children in a study start a family of their own, so it’s very important to make good use of the data that already exists, because it is so valuable.”

How great would it be if we could combine the data we already have to make even more powerful statements?


In her research, Sanne will therefore combine the data from existing studies by means of an Individual Participant Data (IPD) meta-analysis. These analyses are similar to traditional meta-analyses: data from studies are systematically reviewed. But there is one major difference. While traditional meta-analyses are based on combined effects, IPD meta-analyses are based on data of individual participants. That is why IPD meta-analyses lend themselves so well to research on differences between people.

Smart data combination: also for other social scientists

In other disciplines, such as biomedical sciences, IPD meta-analyses are already the gold standard of the systematic review. In the social sciences, however, this type of study is still relatively rare. Sanne hopes that her research will further introduce IPD meta-analyses into the social sciences. “Many research projects utilise longitudinal studies. How great would it be if we could combine the data we already have to make even more powerful statements?”