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

  • T Bol, T., Eller, C.C., van de Werfhorst, H.G., Di Prete, T.A. (2019). School-to-work linkages, educational mismatches, and labor market outcomes. American Sociological Review 84 (2), 275-307.
  • Huitsing, G., Lodder, G.M.A., Browne, W.J., Oldenburg, B., Van der Ploeg, R., & Veenstra, R. (2020). A large-scale replication of the effectiveness of the KiVa anti-bullying program: A randomized controlled trial in the Netherlands. Prevention Science, 21627–638.
  • Kaufman, T.M.L., Kretschmer, T., Huitsing, G., & Veenstra, R. (2020). Caught in a vicious cycle? Explaining bidirectional spillover between parent-child relationships and peer victimization. Development and Psychopathology, 32, 11-20.
  • Kiekens, W.J., Baams, L., & Veenstra, R. (2022). Differences by sex and gender in the association between minority stress and alcohol use among sexual and gender minority youth: A daily diary study. Social Science & Medicine, 294.
  • 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.
  • Thijs, J., & Verkuyten, M. (2016). Ethnic attitudes and social projection in the classroom. Child Development, 87, 1452-65.
  • Veenstra, R., & Lodder, G.M.A. (2022). On the microfoundations of the link between classroom social norms and behavioral development. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 46, 453-460, doi: 10.1177/01650254221100228.

Coordinator: René Veenstra, Sara Geven (contact information)

In the spotlight

Private: ERC Consolidator Grant for Tobias Stark

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

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