February 8, 2024

In an interview with de Correspondent, Arne Popma draws attention to the importance of preventive mental health support for youths.

‘We have defibrillators hanging on every street corner in the Netherlands. Many people have taken a resuscitation course. Why wouldn’t we do the same for mental health?’, says Popma in the interview. Popma explains how he collaborates with mental health organizations to prevent youths from developing serious psychological problems. Prevention efforts should extend to schools, community centers, and online platforms.

Read the full article here (in Dutch).


About Arne Popma
Arne Popma is Full professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Head of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Amsterdam UMC – VUmc and part of the GUTS program. Popma’s research focuses on the developmental pathways and underlying mechanisms of antisocial behavior in young people. Together with a group of colleagues, he founded @ease, an organization that has set up walk-in spaces at various locations in the country, including at Lab6.


Image by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

February 7, 2024

In the NPO Luister HUMAN podcast ‘Het Puberbrein: je Hersenen in Verbouwing’, Eveline Crone explains how the brain starts to rewire when hitting teenage years.

Eveline Crone takes the chance to shed a different light on adolescence than we typically hear: young people are a source of creativity rather than being lazy and uninterested. Adolescence is a unique phase full of possibilities, in which you venture out, explore, and discover. All of this is because the brain undergoes a complete renovation once we start our teenage years. Crone explains exactly what happens in the brain and how she investigates this in her lab.

What is the role of the social environment for young people? And are we doing the right thing with the phone ban in the classroom? Three young people also share their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has impacted their social life and mental well-being.

Listen to the episode (in Dutch) here.

January 25, 2024

‘Persistent shortage of teachers hits vulnerable children even more profoundly’ explains Thijs Bol to NOS.

In an article of Dutch news broadcaster NOS, Thijs Bol emphasizes the need to improve the quality of education and to relieve teachers of their excessive workload. Especially for children facing social vulnerabilities, this is crucial.

Read the article here (in Dutch).


About Thijs Bol

Thijs Bol is Professor of Sociology at University of Amsterdam and part of the GUTS program. His research focuses on inequality in education, the labor market, and science. In his work, Bol mostly focuses on understanding how inequalities between groups arise, and how we can understand why trajectories diverge within these three domains. In current research projects he tries to understand inequality of opportunity in education and studies how the linkage between school and work affects labor market outcomes.


Photo by Taylor Flowe on Unsplash.

January 24, 2024

Eddie Brummelman is elected as new chair of The Young Academy.

The Young Academy is a dynamic and innovative community of young scientists, bringing together different perspectives on science and its connections to policy and society. The group organizes activities for diverse audiences to share and exchange their views.

Eddie Brummelman will start in April 2024 and aims to advocate for a scientific community in which every student, teacher, and researcher has an equal opportunity to succeed. Additionally, he intends to strengthen the connection between science and society.


About Eddie Brummelman

Eddie Brummelman is Associate Professor in Pedagogy at the University of Amsterdam and part of the GUTS program. Brummelman researches self-image development of children, specifically focusing on narcissism and self-esteem. He connects this knowledge to today’s societal issues, such as social inequality.

November 3, 2023

On October 26th, Simone Dobbelaar defended her dissertation entitled ‘Helping me, helping you. Behavioral and neural development of social competence from childhood to adolescence.’

Summary of the dissertation

Why do some children easily find their way in social situations and are satisfied with their social lives, while others experience more difficulties? One key component that may explain this is social competence: the ability to fulfill both own and other’s social goals, for example in social interactions. This thesis focused on individual differences in social competence development from childhood to adolescence, an important developmental period that is marked by an increase in social experiences and interactions. To understand individual differences in social competence development, I examined contextual, developmental, environmental and neurobiological influences on aggressive and prosocial responses to social evaluation. Moreover, I examined whether the co-occurrence of aggression and prosocial behavior may work as predictor for developmental outcomes such as wellbeing later in time.

The results of this thesis can be described in three main findings. First, findings showed that there were robust neural processes related to the processing of social feedback and subsequent aggression already in middle childhood. Additionally, this thesis revealed that the period between childhood and adolescence is important for the behavioral and neural development of inhibition of aggression following negative, neutral and positive social feedback. Aggression following social feedback decreased towards adolescence, but aggression following positive feedback decreased earlier in childhood than aggression following negative feedback. Moreover, the involvement of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, known for its role in executive functioning and inhibition, decreased over time. Finally, results indicated that the co-occurrence of aggression following rejection of oneself and prosocial behavior following observed rejection of others may possibly protect against externalizing behaviors and promote wellbeing. Together, this thesis highlights the importance of examining the interplay of developmental processes across social contexts to understand mental health outcomes later in adolescence.

Simone Dobbelaar will continue as a post-doc for the GUTS project. Within GUTS, she will focus on the role of peer networks and social dynamics in relation to neural processes related to self regulation.

Promotors: Michelle Achterberg, Anna van Duijvenvoorde and Eveline Crone

You can find an interview with Simone regarding her research in the article titled “Een beetje agressie helpt kinderen in hun sociale ontwikkeling, ontdekte Simone Dobbelaar tijdens haar promotie.” To access the interview, please follow this link: Interview with Simone Dobbelaar.

October 20, 2023

Loes Keijsers wins the Dr. Hendrik Muller Prijs 2023. She receives the award for her creative and innovative research using smartphones and serious games to gain insights into the lives of adolescents.

Keijsers’ research among individual adolescents has, for the first time, explicitly demonstrated that what may have a positive effect for one child can have the opposite effect for others. The award ceremony will take place on December 7th in Amsterdam, accompanied by a mini-symposium: “Under pressure?! Naar een mentaal gezonde generatie”. More information about the mini-symposium can be found here.


About Loes Keijsers

Loes Keijsers is professor in Clinical Child and Family Studies at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research examines the impact of parenting and social media on adolescent well-being and adjustment. Employing novel longitudinal research designs and analytical methods, she studies how the real-time influences of social interactions in daily lives can trigger the development of internalizing and externalizing problems. In interdisciplinary collaborations, she translates these insights into eHealth tools and products for adolescents, their families, and practitioners.

September 20, 2023

‘We are going to chart individuals as a part of their complete social network over time. That kind of research is very rare so far,’ explains Berna Güroğlu.

In her Leiden University interview, Güroğlu talks about the focus of her research and explains how she will apply highly innovative methods to study social networks for the GUTS project. Read the full article on the Leiden University website.


About Berna Güroğlu

Berna Güroğlu is professor of the Neuroscience of Social Relations at Leiden University and steering committee of the GUTS program. Güroğlu’s research examines social and cognitive development from a neuroscience perspective, with a special focus on adolescence. She combines measures of social networks with experimental tasks and fMRI methods to examine the neural basis of social behavior and relationships, with a particular on positive (e.g., friendships) and negative (e.g., social exclusion and peer victimization) peer relationships. Güroğlu is the chair of the Dutch Society for Developmental Psychology (VNOP) that unites developmental psychologists from the Netherlands and Belgium.

September 13, 2023

The brain is a fascinating organ that keeps developing over time, influenced by experiences and genes. Eveline Crone and Hilleke Hulshoff Pol both study the brain and its role in development.

In their mirrored interview for magazine New Scientist, Crone and Hulshoff Poll explain what they ideally want to achieve with their research and their most important findings so far. They also share personal matters: Hulshoff Pol’s passion for sculpting and Crone’s work-life balance. 

‘I study how young people can grow up in the best possible way; how their social worlds, such as parents, school, and friends, interact. My staff and I pay attention to a person’s environment and personal characteristics. We are particularly interested in how it is possible that people are sometimes focused on the well-being of others and at other times on their own well-being. How do you balance between these interests? We take into account all kinds of influences from the environment, such as the neighbourhood in which the child grows up, the role of the family, and that of friends. Together, these social worlds influence who the child is’, states Eveline Crone.

In return, Hilleke Hulshoff Pol explains: ‘The biggest breakthrough of our research is that we have proved that genes affect brain growth or shrinkage. We also have evidence that these changes affect how we function, how we develop, how we age, and possibly the development of psychiatric disorders.’

The full article will be published in New Scientist, as part of the magazine’s special issue about the Consortium on Individual Development. The article will appear in September 2023. Read a preview of the interview here.


Eveline Crone is head of the L-CID study. Hilleke Hulshoff Pol is professor at Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht.

Images: New Scientist

August 7, 2023

In her NRC interview, Lucres Nauta-Jansen explains the complexities of addressing adolescent delinquency and the crucial role of understanding each young person’s unique circumstances, including their biological vulnerabilities. ‘Aggressive boys and anxious girls are biologically similar’, states Nauta-Jansen.

Read the full interview on the NRC website.


About Lucres Nauta-Jansen

Lucres Nauta-Jansen is Professor of Translational Forensic Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Amsterdam UMC-VUmc and part of the steering committee of the GUTS program. Lucres’ research focuses on the development of antisocial and delinquent behavior in children and adolescents. Her projects involve studies on antisocial and delinquent adolescents in juvenile justice institutions, closed youth care and other groups of children and adolescents that are (at risk of) getting into contact with the police.

August 3, 2023

Developmental neuroscientist Dr Michelle Achterberg and developmental psychologist Dr Lysanne te Brinke from the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences have both been awarded a €280,000 Veni grant from NWO. The Veni is a person-specific scientific grant from NWO for promising scientists.


Dealing with social rejection and the well-being of youth

Dr. Michelle Achterberg (Department of Psychology, Education and Child Studies)

‘’Social rejection is one of the most challenging experiences for children and can have long-lasting negative impact on their well-being. Scientists currently do not understand why some children are more affected by social rejection than others. With the data collected in this Veni-project, I will be able to investigate the social development of children for 10 ongoing years (7 to 17 years old). Using brain imaging techniques in combination with daily questions through smartphones, I aim to discover which children are most affected by social rejection, to ultimately determine how we can best facilitate social development of these children.’

Young people as agents of change

Dr. Lysanne te Brinke (Department of Psychology, Education and Child Studies) 

”Adolescents who are growing up in the current decade need to deal with several societal challenges, such as increases in social inequalities and climate change. During the developmental period of adolescence, individuals experience a strong need to contribute to these societal challenges. However, little is known about how best to shape this need to contribute. In this project, I examine how adolescents can become agents of change by looking at differences between contributions to close others and contributions to the broader society”

About the Veni grant

Veni, together with the Vidi and Vici grants, is part of the Talent Programme. The NWO Talent Programme gives researchers the freedom to conduct their own research based on creativity and passion. NWO selects researchers based on the scientific quality and innovative nature of the research proposal, the scientific and/or societal impact of the proposed project and the quality of the researcher.

The programme encourages innovation and curiosity. Free research contributes to and prepares us for tomorrow’s society. This is why NWO focuses on a diversity of scientists, domains and backgrounds.