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Social Development of Adolescents

coordinator: René Veenstra

This research line carries out research on the development of adolescents. The focus is on positive and negative outcomes. Topics that are studied are antisocial behavior (Veenstra, Dijkstra, Sentse, Sijtsema), bullying and victimization (Veenstra, Huitsing), depression and anxiety (Sentse), parent-child relationships (Sentse), peer acceptance and rejection (Dijkstra, Munniksma), popularity (Dijkstra), prosocial behavior (Veenstra, Dijkstra), romantic relationships (Ivanova), radicalization (Veldhuis), and same- and cross-ethnic friendships (Munniksma). There is close collaboration with Siegwart Lindenberg and use of the microfoundations developed by him.

This research line often uses a goal-framing approach for explaining human behavior. Goals can be seen as combinations of representations of desired or undesired end states and knowledge structures (including stereotypes) about ways to realize them. When they are activated or "focal", goals influence both what people pay special attention to and what they like or dislike. Objects that are deemed to facilitate goal achievement are liked, and objects that are deemed to block goal achievement are disliked. Prosocial behavior is likely to be a feature seen to facilitate goal pursuit and is thus a positive feature. Antisocial behavior, by contrast, is not always seen as a negative feature. Of course, it thwarts goal pursuit for the victims and is perceived as negative by the victims. But for onlookers or collaborators, it may be neutral and sometimes even facilitate goal pursuit, such as status striving.

In addition, goals have great impact on cognitions and emotions and their regulation. Failure to satisfy fundamental needs will lead to pathology in both behavior and emotion regulation. Individual characteristics and social circumstances (including social networks) that help need satisfaction will reduce and those that thwart need satisfaction will increase pathology. Adolescents whose fundamental needs are thwarted are likely to experience a shift in goals towards short-term goals. They are likely to lose self-regulatory capacities, which means that they have a reduced ability to influence their goal-framing process.

To get more insight into these processes, longitudinal data sets are used, such as TRAILS (Veenstra, Dijkstra, Ivanova, Ruschoff, Sentse, Sijtsema), Generation R (Bondaruk), KiVa (Huitsing, Sainio), and The Arnhem School Study(Munniksma). This research line uses several analysis techniques, including social network analysis techniques such as p2 and SIENA, programs developed by colleagues in Groningen. There is international interest in the application of these social network analysis techniques, in particular in research on adolescents.

The aim is to develop this research line on the development of adolescents in two directions. First, new insights are needed into processes of interactive and cumulative continuity. Vicious cycles can occur as a result of the misfit between a person and the environment, and path dependencies can increasingly restrict persons' opportunities. Such dynamic processes require new theoretical and methodological approaches. Success with this first challenge will have spin-offs for the second challenge: Disseminating this work and developing interventions. This research line is involved in a promising intervention, the Finnish KiVa Koulu Anti-Bullying Intervention Program, coordinated by Christina Salmivalli, in which bullying is seen as a group process. Not only bullies and victims, but also the class as a whole has a role in the bullying process. The input of this research line for this intervention is the theoretical and empirical elaboration of a social network approach to bullying.

The research group collaborates at the University of Groningen with experts in the fields of sociology (Flache, Mills), education (Bosker), statistics (Snijders, Steglich, Van Duijn), health sciences (Reijneveld), and psychiatry (Ormel, Oldehinkel). Nationally there are collaborations with other researchers at Utrecht University (Vollebergh), Radboud University Nijmegen (Cillessen), Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam (Verhulst, Tiemeier), NSCR (Blokland), and WODC (Van der Laan). Some of the work in our research group has been co-authored by international experts including, among others, Moffitt (Duke University), Card (University of Arizona), Gest (Pennsylvania State University), Hawley (University of Kansas), Hodges (St Johns University), Juvonen (UCLA), Laird (University of New Orleans), Little (University of Kansas), Murray-Close (University of Vermont), Ojanen (University of South Florida), and Salmivalli (University of Turku). Together with these international collaborators, we organize symposia at conferences. Finally, contacts with Dutch researchers in sociology, criminology, psychiatry, and developmental psychology are also available (NSV, NVK conferences). In November 2009, our research group organized a meeting for researchers in the Netherlands in the field of peer relations. Several projects received external funding, for instance by the Ministry of Education (Onderwijs Bewijs Actieprogramma II), the Ministry of Justice (WODC), NWO VENI, NWO Youth & Family Program, and NWO Toptalent Program.

Next to faculty and PhD students, also students from the Research Master's Program Human Behavior in Social Contexts and from the honorary program of the Department of Sociology participate in this research line. The coordinator of the research line is René Veenstra

Key publications:
Dijkstra, J.K., Lindenberg, S., & Veenstra, R. (2007). Same-gender and cross-gender peer acceptance and peer rejection and their relation to bullying and helping among preadolescents: Comparing predictions from gender-homphily and goal-framing approaches. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1377-1389.
Dijkstra, J.K., Cillessen, A.H.N., Lindenberg, S., & Veenstra, R. (2010). Basking in reflected glory and its limits: Why adolescents hang out with popular peers. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 20, 942-958.

Dijkstra, J.K., Lindenberg, S., Veenstra, R., Steglich, C., Isaacs, J. , Card, N.A. & Hodges, E.V.E. (2010). Influence and selection processes in weapon carrying during adolescence: The roles of status, aggression, and vulnerability. Criminology, 48, 187-220.
Huitsing, G., Veenstra, R., Sainio, M., & Salmivalli. C. (forthcoming). "It must be me" or "It could be them?": The impact of the social network position of bullies and victims on victims' adjustment. Social Networks.
Sentse, M., Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Verhulst, F.C., & Ormel, J. (2009). Buffers and risks in temperament and family for early adolescent psychopathology: Generic, conditional, or domain-specific effects? Developmental Psychology, 45, 419-430.
Sijtsema, J.J., Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Van Roon, A.M., Verhulst, F.C., Ormel, J., & Riese, H. (2010). Mediation of sensation seeking and behavioral inhibition on the longitudinal relationship between heart rate and antisocial behavior. The TRAILS Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 49, 493-502.
Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Munniksma, A., & Dijkstra, J.K. (2010). The complex relation between bullying, victimization, acceptance, and rejection: Giving special attention to status, affection, and sex differences. Child Development, 81, 480-486.
Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Tinga, F., & Ormel, J. (2010). Truancy in late elementary and early secondary education: The influence of social bonds and self-control. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34, 302-310.
Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Verhulst, F.C., & Ormel, J. (2009). Childhood-limited versus persistent antisocial behavior: Why do some recover and others do not? The TRAILS study. Journal of Early Adolescence, 29, 718-742.
Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Zijlstra, B.J.H., De Winter, A.F., Verhulst, F.C., & Ormel, J. (2007). The dyadic nature of bullying and victimization: Testing a dual perspective theory. Child Development, 78, 1843-1854.