Interuniversity Center for Social Science Theory and Methodology

Youth and education

Youth and education: Nurturing social development

When young people go through a troublesome social development, for instance involvement in bullying, aggression, discrimination and risk behaviors, this does not only form a threat to youth in the short run, but can also severely impair adjustment in adulthood. The social development of young people is an ongoing concern for parents, teachers, and society at large. Understanding why and under what conditions young people socially flourish is therefore of great importance.

The general aim of this research cluster is to gain insight in the dynamic interplay between individuals and their ever-changing environment, most prominently the peer group and the educational context.

This interplay is captured by two means. First, social networks are examined regarding individuals’ characteristics and their relationships with other individuals to disentangle selection and influence processes. Both processes have been linked to a wide range of outcomes, such as delinquency, risk behaviors, interethnic relations, but also prosocial behavior and academic achievement, all contributing to our knowledge how behaviors and relations unfold in interaction with each other. Second, research is aimed at norms to understand the interplay between individuals and their environment. Norms emerge from group consensus (descriptive norms) or from authorities such as teachers (prescriptive norms) about what is appropriate in given social circumstances, but they also shape, constrain, and re-direct behavior at the individual level. In research on aggression and bullying, and on ethnic identification and interethnic relations, research has gained much insights in who sets the norm and how attitudes and behaviors are affected by group norms.

Key Publications

  • Kaufman, T. M. L., Kretschmer, T., Huitsing, G., & Veenstra, R. (2018). Why does a universal anti-bullying program not help all children? Explaining persistent victimization during an intervention. Prevention Science19(6), 822–832.
  • Veenstra, R., Dijkstra, J.K., & Kreager, D.A. (2018). Pathways, networks, and norms: A sociological perspective on peer research. In W.M. Bukowski, B. Laursen, & K.H. Rubin (eds.) Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups, 2nd edition (pp.45-63). New York: Guilford.
  • Van de Werfhorst, Herman G. 2017. Vocational and Academic Education and Political Engagement: The Importance of the Educational Institutional Structure. Comparative Education Review, forthcoming.
  • Thijs, J., & Verkuyten, M. (2016). Ethnic attitudes and social projection in the classroom. Child Development, 87, 1452-65.
  • Dijkstra, J. K., Kretschmer, T., Pattiselanno, K., Franken, A., Harakeh, Z., Vollebergh, W., & Veenstra, R. (2015). Explaining adolescents’ delinquency and substance use: A test of the maturity gap. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 52, 747–767.
  • Stark, T. H. (2015). Understanding the selection bias: Social network processes and the effect of prejudice on the avoidance of outgroup friends. Social Psychology Quarterly, 78, 127–150.
  • Huitsing, G., Snijders, T. A. B., Van Duijn, M. A. J., & Veenstra, R. (2014). Victims, bullies, and their defenders: A longitudinal study of the co-evolution of positive and negative networks. Development and Psychopathology, 26, 645-659.

Coordinators: Jan Kornelis Dijkstra, Herman van de Werfhorst

In the spotlight

ERC Consolidator Grant for Tobias Stark

Research proposal ‘DualNets: Bridges in social networks: Harnessing dual identity to improve interethnic relations’ awarded

Read more