Dr S. Thijssen (Sandra)

Assistant professor - Behavioural Science Institute
Assistant professor - Orthopedagogics: Family and Behaviour

Dr S. Thijssen (Sandra)
Visiting address

Thomas van Aquinostraat 4

Postal address

Postbus 9104

Working days Monday morning, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday morning

Despite most parents' best intentions, too many children grow up in high stress family environments, characterized by, for example, harsh parental discipline or parental psychopathology. Using data from large representative cohorts, such as the Dutch Generation R Study or the American Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study, my research provides insights into the effects of such family environments on child brain development and mental health, and on neurobiological factors related to parenting behaviors.

In my research, I use an evolutionary approach and view effects of harsh environments as adaptations rather than as damage. This view serves justice to children's resilience and adaptability, and sees children not merely as passive victims but as active agents trying to play the hand they were dealt.

In addition to my work on the effects of the family environment on child development, I am interested in the neurobiological background of externalizing behaviors, such as aggressive behavior or substance use. Using magnetic resonance neuroimaging, I try to understand what the brains of more aggressive individuals look like and how they function in comparison to less aggressive individuals.


Research grants and prizes


Ancillary activities