As a researcher, project leader and program leader, I have designed, conducted and led research on when, why, and how adolescent (mental) health and wellbeing varies as a function of proximal and distal contexts. These contexts range from family and peer relationships, young peoples’ socioeconomic position and migration background, the school, neighborhood to the country context. In doing so, I consider adolescents’ strengths and weaknesses as well as contextual affordances and risk factors. In my research, I also examine time trends in adolescent (mental) health and wellbeing. I integrate complementary methods: large-scale, cross-sectional, internationally comparative research, clinical interview studies, longitudinal research, and qualitative and experimental methods.
Topics I have focused on in my research concern migration and diversity, social inequality, risk behavior, and trust, often, but not exclusively, in relation to (mental) health and wellbeing. For example, my PhD project was one of the first representative epidemiological studies on the mental health of immigrant children in Europe. Since 2016, I have been the principal investigator of the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) study in the Netherlands, a large-scale WHO collaborative cross-national study conducted in approximately 50 countries in Europe. I am scientific coordinator of the interdisciplinary hub ‘YOUth Got Talent’ aimed at optimizing youth’s potential for social participation, health, and wellbeing. This project focuses (among others) on the importance of future expectations, trust, and societal fairness for mental health and school drop-out in MBO students. I am a member of the TRAILS management team. TRAILS is an ongoing longitudinal and multidisciplinary cohort study on the psychological, social and physical development of adolescents and young adults. Finally, I am co-projectleader of a large-scale study on poverty and youth mental health from a systems perspective.
To generate interest for my studies, I give interviews for national television, radio and newspapers’. I also strive for the implementation and application of my research findings. To illustrate, I co-developed a strategic plan for municipalities to enhance the early identification of internalizing problems in adolescents and have been involved in the production of Unicef Report Card 13 focusing on social inequality and adolescent health. More recently, I joined forces with Utrecht municipality and three tertiary education schools in the Netherlands to gain insight in and redress the negative mental health consequences of COVID-19 among MBO students.