Developmental labels: the good, the bad and the contested

How do diagnostic classifications affect children’s wellbeing?

Sometimes, children encounter difficulties in their development that require more guidance or help than is available at home or school. This often leads to children being given a ‘label’: a diagnostic classification such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder or dyslexia. Overall, around 1 in 15 children in the Netherlands receives such a label during their childhood.



These classifications can be necessary to receive adequate care. On the other hand, there is societal disquiet about the increase in the prevalence of such labels. Parents, schools and professional care-givers have more and more questions about the effects of a label on a child’s self-image, and on the way their family, peers and others approach them.

Furthermore, labels are not specific enough to help create an environment optimally adapted to an individual child’s needs. The question remains whether labels are necessary and desirable; and if not, what a better approach to charting individual problems and needs might be. Our starting point here is that more attention should be given to the possibilities and competences of the child, their family and the environment.

Our goals

This project aims to unite all expertise within Utrecht University and the UMC Utrecht in the areas of child development and developmental disorders. We will integrate our knowledge to investigate the effect of labels on children and their environments, together with societal and campus partners. Furthermore, we aim to develop a more comprehensive way to represent diagnostic results in relation to the personal situation, in order to be able to offer more targeted treatments.

Dynamics of Youth needs you

Interested in this project? Please get in touch. Because for our new interdisciplinary projects to thrive and the Child Expertise Center to work we need you. Contact our executive director Petra van Dijk for further information: +31 30 253 67 80, 

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