In the spotlight
Youth researchers from all seven faculties of Utrecht University are involved in Dynamics of Youth. But who are these scientists? And what exactly are they investigating? We like to put our youth researchers in the spotlight. Get to know them one by one through the interviews below.
Understanding emotions: the key for young people
Where in your body do you feel that you are angry? Or frightened? Or sad? The better young people are able to describe and recognise emotions, the better they are able to deal with them. Anne Margit Reitsema has been working for several months as a postdoctoral fellow in the Thriving & Healthy Youth community. In her research, she immerses herself in the world of physical and mental characteristics of emotions in young people.
Searching for effective help for depressed youth
Yvonne Stikkelbroek, is an involved jack-of-all-trades with one foot in research and the other in practice. As an Assistant Professor at Utrecht University and a clinical psychologist at the TOP GGZ department Expertisecenter Depression Youth in East Brabant. She shares all her gained knowledge at conferences, lectures, and in the theatre. “I promised myself one thing when I went to obtain my PhD at age 51: if I take all this effort to get into research, I want to share it too. Both with the young clients and their parents.”
Research into brain development in young people: figuring out how young people can grow up even better
Meet Hilleke Hulshoff Pol Professor of Neurosciences – Experimental Psychology at Utrecht University, who is conducting research into brain development in young people. She already concluded in her previous research that genes influence the growth and shrinkage of areas in the brain. Building on this, and as part of the Gravitation project ‘Growing Up Together in Society’, she is now researching how young people develop in a fast-changing and complex society.
Becoming an adult: how do you do that?
Ouissam Abattouy is being awarded the NWO Mozaïek 2.0 doctoral grant for her research into how young people with and without an immigrant background undergo the transition to adulthood. This year is the first time this grant is being awarded again since the previous edition in 2012. Mozaïek 2.0 (‘Mosaic 2.0’) is a springboard for ambitious young academics with an immigrant background who are underrepresented in the Dutch academic community. At the same time, this grant can help to promote the development of an inclusive working environment.
Vulnerability and resilience of children with a chronic illness
In stressful periods, some children turn out to be more resilient than others. Which factors contribute to children’s resilience during stressful events? And how does this work in a more vulnerable group, such as children with chronic illnesses? ZonMw is funding a research project in which these questions take centre stage. Emma Berkelbach van der Sprenkel will start her PhD track to find the answers to these questions this summer.
Use of gaming to combat loneliness in chronically ill children
Children with chronic illnesses have fewer interactions with their peers than healthy children. For example, they miss out on children's parties or moments at school due to tiredness or hospital visits. As a result, they lack some of the social-emotional skills that are important for making friends. Dionysis Alexandridis is building Ruby's Game for his doctoral research in order to reduce loneliness among these children.
The power of social relationships in youth
Living long, healthy and happily without other people: it is almost impossible to imagine. Social relationships are very important to adults, but also especially for children. Social-psychology researcher Reine van der Wal investigates how people maintain social relationships in times of conflict and stress. “I try to expose the dynamic between relationship partners with research.” Recently, Van der Wal became a member of Utrecht Young Academy, where she wants to encourage a collective mindset at the university as an ambassador of the new Recognition and Rewards programme.
Meet... Zowi Vermeire
Which impact does the digital world have on how youngsters view education? That is one of the questions youth researcher Zowi Vermeire occupies herself with. She researches how youngsters' online activities have changed how and what they learn. “I use online environments as a source of inspiration to look at regular education differently.”
Meet... Els Stronks
“How our youth develops can't be seen separately from the Dutch culture, language, and historical thinking on child rearing and education in the Netherlands. Cultural-historic research shows these traditions, but also provides space to look at the future.” The person speaking is Els Stronks. As a Professor of Early Modern Dutch Literature, she brings a fresh wind from Humanities to Dynamics of Youth, the UU-wide research theme on the youth as they grow up.
Meet... Manja Coopmans
Her research is focused on factors that improve or inhibit social and political involvement among youngsters. Equality or inequality of opportunities, inclusion and diversity are themes she often comes across in that field. Themes that link up seamlessly with Dynamics of Youth. Her name: Manja Coopmans, an Assistant Professor at Utrecht University. She is currently busy working on the coordination of the Erasmus+ project Vox Pop Europe; an online dialogue platform where youngsters from various countries can meet. So it is about time to get to know this researcher.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on young people’s mental well-being
The first lockdown as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic led to reduced life satisfaction among young people. At the same time, however, they also experienced a slight decrease in physical stress-related symptoms. These are the conclusions drawn from recent research conducted by University Medical Center Utrecht physician-researcher and epidemiologist Sabine van der Laan. Together with PhD supervisors Kors van der Ent and Catrin Finkenauer and co-supervisors Sanne Nijhof and Virissa Lenters, Van der Laan compared the mental health of young people during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with the situation before the pandemic.
An economist's perspective on youth development
‘Social inequality starts at an early age. Increasing equality of opportunity for children is vital to their future – and contributes to greater prosperity in a broader sense,’ says Thomas van Huizen external link, an education and labour economist and an associate professor at the Utrecht University School of Economics. In this interview, he talks about his research into pre-school education, the use of big data and the added value of interdisciplinary research.