Faculty of Social Sciences
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Research topics

Bullying & victimization

Not all peer relations are positive. Unfortunately, many children and adolescents experience victimization or are involved in bullying. Within our team, we try to further our understanding about the processes that are at play. We examine how and why bullying occurs, who is involved in bullying, the consequences of bullying as well as how to intervene on bullying.

Team members: Loes Pouwels, Tessa Lansu, Yvonne van den Berg, Jingu Kim, Hannah Peetz, Toon Cillessen, Sarah Malamut

Classroom climate

Children and adolescents spend a lot of their time in the classroom among their peers. The classroom climate refers to the social and emotional climate of the classroom, which stimulates well-being, relationships and academic functioning. Within our team, we focus on the nature of the classroom climate and how it can be stimulated to increase the social and emotional wellbeing of children and adolescents.

Team members: Yvonne van den Berg, Jingu Kim, Nathalie Hoekstra, Toon Cillessen

Automatic processes

Not all our behaviour is driven by conscious and deliberate processes. Many things that we say or do happens automatically. The same is true in the context of peer relations. Our team investigates which automatic processes are at play and how they effect the socio-emotional functioning of children and adolescents.

Team members: Tessa Lansu, Hannah Peetz, Loes Pouwels, Toon Cillessen

Social status (popularity and likeability)

During childhood and adolescence, peers become increasingly more important and youth try to find their spot among their peers. Within that social hierarchy, we distinguish between youth that are well liked and youth that are popular. Our research focusses on these two types of social status, their antecedents and consequences, and the role of social status in youths’ socio-emotional functioning.

Team members: Toon Cillessen, Tessa Lansu, Sarah Malamut, Loes Pouwels, Nina Chmielowice-Szymanski

(Social) media and online peer interactions

Now that adolescents are near constantly connected to their peers and friends via social media, we investigate the role of social media in peer relationships. Within our team, we aim to examine individual and contextual differences in the effects of social media use on peer relationships. We also examine the role of peer relations in adolescents’ problematic social media use.

Next to social media, we also focus on other online contexts that children and adolescents interact with each other, such as video gaming.

Team members: Loes Pouwels, Sanyogita Khare, Geert Verheijen, Jamie Fehribach

Internalizing and externalizing behaviour OR Social connectedness & loneliness

The development of close relationships with peers and friend is a critical developmental task in adolescents. When adolescents experience a discrepancy between the desired and actual quality and quantity of their peer relationships, they feel lonely. Within our research, we investigate the development of social connectedness and loneliness throughout adolescence and the role of social cognitions, gaming and social media in this development.

Team members: Loes Pouwels, Mallory Millett, Yvonne van den Berg

Social goals and social cognitions

An important mechanism in the social dynamics and socio-emotional functioning of youth is their social cognitions: from attention, to interpretation, to forming goals. Our group focuses on several aspects of social cognition and how it plays a role in youths’ behaviour. For instance, our research examines youths’ social goals with regard to social status and their role in pro- and antisocial behaviour.

Team members: Tessa Lansu, Sarah Malamut, Hannah Peetz

Interpersonal proximity in the classroom

Managing social dynamics is a daily, yet sometimes challenging task for teachers. In recent years, we have shown that where children sit in the classroom classroom plays an important role in how they perceive each other, behave towards each other, and form relationship with each other. Seating arrangements can thus be a powerful tool to manage social relationships and behaviors. By using state-of-the-art tracking devices and rearranging classroom seats, we will continue to examine teachers can manage social dynamics via their own proximity to students and proximity between students.

Team members: Yvonne van den Berg, Nathalie Hoekstra, Jingu Kim

Teacher impact on social relations

As the responsible adult in the classroom, teachers play a large role in children's development. They do so both directly, for example through the interactions and relationships with individual students, and indirectly, for example in the way they manage classroom social dynamics. We examine how teachers exert impact on students' classroom lives and specifically focus on seating arrangements and social relations.

Team members: Nathalie Hoekstra, Yvonne van den Berg

Peer influence

Children and adolescents spend a lot of their time interacting with their peers. These interactions play an important role in shaping youths’ live and our team studies these peer influence in a variety of different ways as well as contexts: from a dyadic to a group perspective, from pro- to antisocial behaviour.

Team members: William Burk, Jingu Kim

Interpersonal peer problems and eating behavior

Eating behaviour is at the centre of many (mental) health problems, such as obesity or anorexia nervosa. Within our group, we examine how youths’ social environments play a role in their potentially problematic eating behaviour. Specifically, we focus on how interpersonal problems relate to loss of control eating.

Team members: Desi Beckers