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ResearchDepartment of SociologyResearch in GroningenResearch lines

Social development of young people

In the lives of young people there are a lot of changes. "Young people are really looking for themselves. Who am I? What do I want? Where do I belong?" Says Professor René Veenstra.

Childhood experiences can have a lasting influence. For example, children who are bullied early in life are more likely later on to suffer from depression.

Therefore it is important according Veenstra to examine the social development of young people. His research focuses on positive outcomes, goals, friendships and romantic relationships, and negative outcomes, problem behaviour and bullying.

Group Process
Sociologists consider bullying as a social phenomenon, says René Veenstra. "A psychologist would wonder what the characteristics are of children who bully and those who are victimized. We look at bullying as a group process." For instance what makes that children bullied in one class, but not in another class?

Veenstra and his research group will now use their knowledge about bullying to combat bullying. "If the group is the problem, then you can use the group for the solution," he says. Premise that he sees in the Finnish anti-bullying programme KiVa. Veenstra will examine whether the programme is effective. "If children are not bullied, they go to school with more fun and have more peace in their minds to learn well."

The research on bullying prompts new questions. Is it true that the group is always important in tackling bullying, or can a few popular bullies dictate the classroom norms? And what is the influence of the teacher? For this and to answer other questions, the social networks in classes and schools will be mapped and analysed.

Risk behaviour
Whereas Veenstra's research focuses on children of primary school age, other researchers are focusing on young people aged 12 to 18 years and look at risk behaviour. In adolescences, many people start smoking and drinking or exhibit delinquent behaviour and vandalism.

An important question is what role peers play. 'Peers' have several effects on risk behaviour. Risk behaviour can deliver status. But not always. Other factors, such as an attractive appearance, being good at sports, are just as important. Young people are under peer pressure. To what extent are they influenced by each other?

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Last modified:05 February 2019 2.27 p.m.
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