Universiteit Leiden

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Forensic Family and Youth Care Studies


The Forensic Family and Youth Care Studies research group conducts innovative high-quality research aiming to gain knowledge about deviant developmental trajectories of vulnerable children, adolescents, and families, about how to prevent problematic development and how to intervene when necessary.

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Important research topics are parenting problems, child maltreatment, intergenerational transmission of parenting problems, foster care, and the effects of these issues on child development.

Child maltreatment is a linking issue in our programme.  For example, we conduct prevalence studies in a variety of countries, but we also study the connection between child maltreatment and several risk factors and outcomes, such as bullying and victimization. We also study the role of child maltreatment in the context of foster care. In addition, we study professionals who support, instruct and advise children, adolescents, and families. Research is set up from an ecological perspective, focusing on individuals (physiology as well as behavior), their immediate environment, society and culture, including the role of cultural diversity.

An important part of our research is aimed at unraveling processes of deviant development and parenting. We showed that maltreating parents show lower autonomic nervous system reactivity when confronted with a child's crying. We also study bullying and try to find out what causes children to become either bullies or victims. We study child characteristics such as impulsivity, low levels of empathy, but also overweight and characteristics that are normatively loaden for children and their parents and that are both significant and salient in children’s social environment. The latter is indicative of our interest in cultural diversity: do developmental trajectories of children experiencing maltreatment or bullying differ between cultural groups and contexts and does the prevalence of particular developmental trajectories differ between cultural groups and cultural regions?

We aim to translate our research into evidence-based practical recommendations, interventions, guidelines, and policies. We have developed and tested the effectiveness of screening, monitoring, and diagnostic tools, and of interventions and treatments. For example, we are testing the effectiveness of the Video-feedback Intervention to Promote positive parenting (VIPP) in foster care and as a diagnostic tool for out-of-home placements. We also aim to improve decision-making models in child welfare, particularly foster care,  by performing studies on permanency planning, breakdown and reunification, studying permanency planning practices and developing and testing protocols for out-of-home placement decisions. These studies will eventually result in interventions and tools used in clinical practice, or will be used as input for recommendations, guidelines, or policies. Samples of some of the products we have developed may be found in the right column, under 'products'.

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