Despite important insights in general developmental patterns of adolescents in the last two decades, there is an urgent need to clarify the impact of diverse societal contexts on adolescent development. How and when does this development go astray? How is development influenced by having fewer opportunities such as having poor parent- or peer relations or being involved in antisocial contexts? We need a comprehensive approach to understand the mechanisms underlying the impact of diverse societal contexts on the way in which young people become engaged citizens in society.

The role of self-regulation in growing up

The GUTS program intends to develop a new direction in research by examining youth’s societal contributions using an advanced theoretical framework related to self-regulation. Self-regulation is defined as the ability to be in charge of your own behavior and knowing how to react to your environment. People with better self-regulation are better at balancing immediate and delayed gratification and balancing their own and others’ needs. 

Our theoretical framework predicts that self-regulation development is a key factor that explains why some adolescents and young adults navigate societal and social challenges more successfully than others. Self-regulation is therefore expected to be an important predictor of contributions to society not only during adolescence, but also later in life. Also, understanding the role of self-regulation and how this ability develops over time, together with individuals’ adaptation to environmental challenges may provide solutions to decrease the effect of social inequalities on young people’s potentials.

Longitudinal approach

For the aims of this program, longitudinal measurements are necessary to understand what role self-regulation has in the development of individuals. With longitudinal measurements, we mean [insert].

Our longitudinal approach will be key to the success of this program, because self-regulation is not a fixed trait, but always in development and at the core of complex bidirectional influences. Self-regulation influences the contributions an individual can make to society and enables an individual to become the architect of the social environment that will influence back on their self-regulation capacity. Disentangling these bidirectional influences requires the ability to follow processes over time.

Responsible Research & Innovation Approach

We are developing the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) approach in order to maximize the benefits for both individuals and society, and to anticipate and deal with potential impact on society.

The RRI approach entails four main dimensions: 1) active and early inclusion of diverse stakeholders during the entire research and innovation process, 2) anticipation of alternative scenario’s, including different perceptions of problems and solutions, 3) reflection on underlying values and purposes, and 4) willingness and ability to adapt responsively.


We study the relation between self-regulation development and societal contributions in the contexts of education (educational achievement), social networks (social relations) and antisocial behavior (form of behavior that often contravenes societal norms). Via six work packages we narrow our focus on the following topics: education, social networks, antisocial behavior, genetics, statistics and societal engagement. By doing so, we are able to bridge three different levels of measurements that drive the transitions across adolescence into emerging adulthood: biological, and behavioral and social group relations. In short, we connect knowledge about our brain and behavior with the circumstances someone grows up in. Learn more about our study design.