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YAG PhD-projects 2021

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Marthe de Roo

Marthe de Roo

Supervisors: Tina Kretschmer (FBSS) and Catharina

This PhD project started in September 2021 and focuses on the origins of individual differences in child and adolescent health. More specifically, we examine how overweight in childhood and adolescence is influenced by genetic factors in interplay with environmental factors, such as parenting and neighborhood characteristics. In doing so, we integrate insights from the social sciences and genomics to come to an understanding of how genetic risk plays out under different environmental conditions.

We believe that this interdisciplinary approach allows us to enrich the literature on child and adolescent development through the inclusion of genetic information, which so far has been absent in most social science research despite widespread support for the influence of genes on traits and behaviors of interest to social scientists. Ignoring genetic influence leads to misleading conclusions about environmental effects and thus to an incomplete understanding of the origins of individual differences in child development. For example, associations between parental behaviors and child outcomes that were not adjusted for the fact that parents share half of their genes with their offspring are genetically confounded and can be estimated more precisely using genetically-informed designs. Despite the benefits of such an interdisciplinary approach, a challenge lies in effectively and responsibly communicating results to scientific as well as public audiences. 

Project progress: During the past months, we have been working on the first chapter of the PhD thesis. Using TRAILS (TRacking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey) data, we studied genetic influence on the development of overweight during adolescence and determined whether genetic risk was attenuated by higher socioeconomic status or having physically active parents. Although our findings demonstrated that individuals with a higher genetic predisposition to overweight were at an increased risk of following a developmental course characterized by persistent or adolescent-onset overweight, we did not find that socioeconomic status and parental physical activity mitigated genetic risk. The manuscript is currently in preparation and will be submitted to Pediatrics before the summer break.

That’s gay! – A neurocognitive and social approach to micro-aggression against the LGBTQ+ community -

Ronja Eike

Supervisors: Marie-José (Medical Sciences) and Susanne (FEB)

The project aims to gain an understanding on the effects of micro-aggression from a neurocognitive (specifically emotion regulation), mental health and social identity perspective. In addition to attending several research meet-ups and symposia, Ronja attended the European Public Health Conference in November 2021.

In the beginning of this year, Ronja started working on fMRI data related to emotion regulation difficulties and psychopathology/suicide. The data functions as an additional basis for investigating the role of emotion regulation difficulties within the LGBTQ+ community, a group that has a higher prevalence of psychopathology/suicide and faces micro-aggressions. She aims to finalize a corresponding paper by the end of the first year of her PhD.

In recent weeks, the team developed an interview study that aims to gain insight into the group memberships across the LGBTQ+ community. Here, the degree of identity disclosure (being out in a group), perceived identity valuableness (how participants and group members feel about the identity) and compatibility (being out in some groups but not others) are the focus. The interview study is currently awaiting ethical approval. With the obtained knowledge Ronja will develop a larger survey study that focuses on the question whether the grade of identity compatibility, valuableness and disclosure has an influence on emotion regulation and with that potentially on suicidal behaviour/mental health. For this, Ronja is also currently approaching potential collaborators in the field.

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Chris Boettner

Chris Boettner

Supervisors: Pratika Dayal, Kapteyn Institute (FSE) and IreneTieleman (GELIFES - FSE).

Last modified:08 June 2023 2.13 p.m.