Dr S. Thijssen (Sandra)
Assistant professor - Behavioural Science Institute
Assistant professor - Orthopedagogics: Family and Behaviour
Thomas van Aquinostraat 4
6525 GD NIJMEGEN
6500 HE NIJMEGEN
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.
- Thijssen, S., Collins P.F., Weiss, H., & Luciana, M. (2020). The longitudinal association between externalizing behavior and frontoamygdalar resting-state functional connectivity in late adolescence and young adulthood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 62 (7), 857-867. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.13330
- Thijssen, S., Collins, P., Luciana, M. (2020). Pubertal development mediates the association between family environment and brain function and structure in childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 32, 687-702. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579419000580
- Thijssen, S., Van ‘t Veer, A. E., Witteman, J., Meijer, W.M., Van IJzendoorn, M. H., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. (2018). Effects of vasopressin on neural processing of infant crying in expectant fathers. Hormones and Behavior, 103, 19-27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2018.05.014
- Thijssen, S., Muetzel, R. L., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J, White, T., Van IJzendoorn, M. H. (2017) Less sensitive parenting may accelerate development of the amygdala – medial prefrontal cortex circuit. Development and Psychopathology, 29, 505-518. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579417000141
Research grants and prizes
- 2016 - NWO Rubicon