YOUth aims to understand why some children develop problematic behaviour and why others show resiliency. Understanding this is vital, as there is a growing consensus that these problem behaviours represent the single greatest threat to the — immediate and long-term — health of youth in our nation.

Childhood (including puberty) is characterised by rapid and profound changes in the brain, accompanied by biological and psychological change. Consequently, this is a critical period for the development of behavioural, psychological and psychiatric problems. Indeed, across child development, psychiatric disorders are the most important cause of burden of disease in high-income countries.

For instance, 23% of all disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in children between 0-14 years old are attributable to psychiatric disorders. Moreover, children without psychiatric disorders also often experience behavioural problems that are equally disruptive, at a personal, familial and societal level. This makes it crucial to better understand how such behavioural changes arise, and to what extent they are related to changes in brain development.

YOUth aims to investigate how neurocognitive development in the general population mediates the influence of biological, child-related and environmental determinants on the development of social competence and behavioral control in children.

YOUth intends to include 6000 babies and children from Utrecht and its surrounding areas.
Study design

YOUth is a longitudinal prospective cohort study with repeated measurements, including children from foetal life until young adulthood. YOUth intends to include 6000 babies and children from Utrecht and its surrounding areas. The study includes two groups of children at two different stages of their lives. The first group, YOUth Baby & Child, aims to include 3000 pregnant women at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and their partners through hospitals and midwifery practices. All women presenting at these hospitals and practices for their routine visits, will be asked to participate. Recruitment has started in July 2015 and is still ongoing. The children that are being born from these pregnancies will visit our ChildResearchCenter at several moments during their lives and will be followed for at least 8 years.

The second group, YOUth Child & Teenager, aims to include 3000 children aged 8, 9 or 10 and their parents through primary schools. All eligible children at these schools receive information about the research day and a flyer to take home. Parents and children interested in participating can contact the study center and will be included. These children will visit our ChildResearchCenter every three years, for at least three times.

YOUth applies a flexible longitudinal design for the cohorts. This means that children will be measured at broader age ranges (3-year age ranges) at each wave. The main benefit of the flexible age design is that it will provide more detailed information on the neurodevelopmental curves over time.

Data collection

Collected data concerns:

  • Questionnaires on lifestyle, behaviour, parenting, health, personality, and use of (social) media, child development, etc. 
  • Cognitive measurements, 3D-ultrasound sweeps of the brain of the fetus, EEG, eyetracking, computer tasks, (f)MRI, etc.
  • Furthermore, (umbilical) blood samples, buccal swabs, saliva, and hair samples (collected at each visit) are stored in the UMCU biobank.