Young people growing up in today’s society are faced with many challenges. Because of digitalization and globalization social worlds are more connected than ever. There are many societal challenges, such as geopolitical tension, polarization and climate changes, but also growing up in poverty and performance pressure. How can young people become the best version of themselves in terms of personal growth, education, friendships, social networks and being part of society?

Thanks to a 10-year Gravitation Program, 19 scientists in the Netherlands took an interdisciplinary science-society initiative to examine optimal conditions for growing up in a complex society, with experts from sociology, psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience and genetics. We aim to understand the role of brain development, social-economic environment and social networks, in developing self-regulation and societal well-being. Ultimately, we aim to understand what children need to become an engaged and contributing member of society.

The scientists of the GUTS consortium are convinced that we can achieve more by collaborating across the borders of our individual disciplines. But we are also different in our approach. Through Living Labs we seek active collaboration with societal partners and through citizen science our participants are also our researchers. This way, we build upon the creativity and strength of the young generation.

Find out more about this project on our project website:

Most children develop well and find their way into society without many problems, but not all children manage to do so. We test how individual trajectories are related to a combination of the child’s disposition and the environment in which he or she is raised. We aim to understand the role of brain development, how children’s chances for thriving are influenced by their parents, and how we can better guide children’s development.

The Leiden Consortium on Individual Development (L-CID) is a large-scale longitudinal study in which 500 families with same-sex twins were followed over a six year period. L-CID has a cohort-sequential design with two cohorts: an early childhood cohort (ECC), aged 3-4 at wave 1, and a middle childhood cohort (MCC), aged 7-8 at wave 1. Annual assessments consist of alternating lab- or home visits during which behavioral and neurobiological data are collected. We finished the data collection for both cohorts.

The collected data allows, among others, for testing which child characteristics shape the effect of environmental factors. The aim of L-CID is twofold:

  1. To investigate the development of social competence and behavioral control in children between 3 and 14 years old
  2. To dissect the reason why not all children are equally responsive to variations in the social environment.

Find out more about this project on our project website:

One of the main challenges of developmental cognitive neuroscience studies is to track changes in brain and behavior longitudinally. Within this research line we  investigate developmental changes in childhood, adolescence and early adulthood in three domains: cognitive control, impulse regulation and social-emotional functions.

Cognitive control is examined through changes in learning and learning strategies. Impulse regulation is investigated by means of risk taking, delay of gratification and impulsive aggression. Social-emotional development is examined by our focus on reward processing and prosocial behavior. All functions are examined in relation to structural brain development (gray matter density and white matter tracts) and the role of gonadal hormones. Using multi-level models of change, we examine changes in developmental trajectories over time. In addition, we test how brain structure and function predict future academic and social outcomes.