Why some children thrive and others don't

Leiden researchers on child and family, under the supervision of Professor Rien van IJzendoorn, are partners in a national collaboration which has been granted 27.6 million in research funding by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science: a so-called Gravitation Subsidy. They will be investigating why some children thrive more than others.

A combination of innate characteristics and environment

Most children develop normally and take their place in society without any great problems. But the same is not true for all children. It is well known that this difference is related to a combination of innate characteristics of the child and the environment in which he or she grows up. How these factors influence one another is still largely unexplored territory. The Consortium on Individual Development (CID) examines the interplay between these factors, concentrating on brain development and the role of parents and grandparents.

Two new cohort studies with interventions

Two new cohort studies are being started within CID: one in Utrecht and one in Leiden. Both studies will be following children from a young age on in order to see how genes and environment, nature and nurture impact one another. The Utrecht study is descriptive, while the Leiden cohort study, with a budget of approximately 7 million euro, is also experimental: the researchers will be trying to modify the children's environment, through family and school, to see what effect this has on their development. In addition, the researchers will be investigating which genetic characteristics of children prove to be most sensitive to changes in the environment.

Video feedback

The starting point for the study is the video feedback interventions developed in Leiden at the Department of Child and Family Studies. The researchers investigate what changes these interventions bring about in the children’s behaviour, but also in their hormone balance and brain activity; they do so by taking blood samples and making MRI scans. In addition to child and education specialist Van IJzendoorn, his colleagues Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg (another Child and Education Studies expert) and Eveline Crone (Developmental Psychology) are also participating in the project. The Leiden cohort study forms part of the Leiden profile theme ‘Health across the Human Life Cycle’.


Individual development: Why some children thrive, and others don’t.
Subsidy: 27.6 million euro
Lead researchers: Professors Chantal Kemner (Utrecht University), Dorret Boomsma (VU), Patti Valkenburg (UvA), Marian Joëls and Sarah Durston (UMCU) and Rien van IJzendoorn (Leiden University).

The Gravitation programme is financed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In total, six research teams from different Dutch universities have been granted funds to collaborate in creating excellent scientific research programmes over a period of ten years. Minister Bussemaker has made 167 million euro available for six projects.  


With Gravitation, the Ministry and NWO are giving a new impetus to collaboration at the highest scientific level. The excellent consortia are intended to give a high profile to top university research. Among the projects selected are also two consortia in which Leiden physicists are participating.


The NWO Gravitation programme



(15 November 2012)

Last Modified: 16-11-2012