Dynamics of Youth is one of four strategic research themes of Utrecht University. With an interdisciplinary approach, it focuses at crucial questions for future generations.

The aim of Dynamics of Youth is firstly to increase understanding of how the interplay between biology and environment determines the ability of children to function in society. Hereto, Utrecht expertise in different scholarly traditions is integrated.

Investing in the future by investing in the next generation

Secondly, the aim is to firmly establish Utrecht as the national and international centre for youth research. With this theme, Utrecht University has chosen yet another way to invest in the future – by investing in the next generation.

In Dynamics of Youth, scientists from a variety of disciplines, such as the humanities, social and behavioural sciences, law and economics, geosciences, science, medicine, and veterinary medicine, collaborate in research and education. The emphasis lies on communicating knowledge to the broader public.


The profile of Dynamics of Youth runs along four main research themes that are inspired by societal relevant issues:

In each pillar, researchers from different Utrecht University faculties and with different levels of investigation are involved. Each pillar has two to four principal investigators.

Scheme of Dynamics of Youth pilars.

Levels of investigation

The levels of investigation describe the research traditions and approaches from fundamental to applied research that are involved in Dynamics of Youth: Brain & Cognition, Family & Relations, and Culture & Society.

These levels of investigation encompass all levels of aggregation ranging from the macro level of Culture & Society via the meso level of the close environment of Family & Relations to the micro level of the Brain & Cognition. 

Prevention & Treatment

The basis of our well-being and functioning is laid in our youth. Problems occurring in our youth can have long-term, often permanent, consequences. This pillar aims to improve the prevention and treatment of problematic development in youth.

How can we define the fine line between normal and problematic behaviour?

Finding Your Way in a Dynamic World

The environment in which our children are raised becomes increasingly dynamic, complex and digitalized. Attention to how children and young people are finding their way in diverse physical and digital urban settings must be a pressing concern for research. The pillar ‘Finding Your Way in a Dynamic World’ is focussing on these issues.

How do children navigate in increasingly complex environments?


One of the key developmental tasks for young people is the development of their personal and social identity – to have the experience of belonging to a group. The success of this development is associated with optimal civic engagement and individual well-being. The pillar ‘Belonging’ addresses several contemporary scientific and societal challenges on these and other issues.

How can successful societal participation of youth be promoted?

Optimal Development

The pillar ‘Optimal Development’ focuses on mechanisms and factors that affect optimal stimulation of children. Major questions are, among others: What are optimal periods for learning specific skills? What are (dis)advantages of day-care versus parental raising? And what are the effects of multilingual raising?

What are optimal settings for optimal development?