Research Areas

Our research programme comprises several interrelated domains that represent staff expertise regarding Orthopedagogical science, Family science, and Educational science.

Development in the Pre- and Primary and Secondary School Years (0-18 years)

The first theme focuses on child development from early childhood to adolescence. Key issue in this research domain is to scientifically study familial and neurobiological determinants of typical and atypical child development. Research themes span the developmental continuum from undesirable outcomes such as problematic behaviour and psychopathology, to desirable outcomes, such as prosocial behaviour and empathy. Studies within this domain of research are mainly embedded within the Generation R study, a prospective cohort study from foetal life until young adulthood in a multi-ethnic urban population designed to identify early environmental and genetic causes of normal and abnormal growth, development and health from foetal life until young adulthood. 

Improving Current Pedagogical Practices

The second line of research seeks to contribute specifically to family factors with the ultimate aim to improve current pedagogical professional practices in large urban areas. Researchers in this programme actively seek out collaboration with local professional organisations. There is also an active interaction between school-related programmes to decrease bullying, mental health problems, preliminary school drop out, gang involvement, teenage pregnancy, lover boys, and underage delinquency, and to improve attendance and motivation. Within this domain, there are also studies on the effects of adoption on child outcomes.

Since local professional bodies often carry out their own studies, collaboration with our department is likely to increase the quality and impact of these applied studies and their effectiveness, thereby contributing to practice based evidence. These collaborations also enable the set-up of a database of past and current professional pedagogical and psychological activities in Rotterdam, which aims to eventually serve as an example of excellence for other large urban areas. 

Improving Current Educational Practices

This domain looks at the development of youth during their educational years with its focus on optimising development, maximising motivation to learn, and approaches to learning by making functional changes to the learning context and learning and teaching environment (e.g.  class, school design, use of IT as well as improvements in the professional capacity of schools). Important factors in the learning and teaching environment concerns the teacher and interactions between teachers and pupils. 

Two lines of research emerged around this theme: First, exploring the complexity and improving the educational quality, which refers to student learning and motivation, teacher-student relationships and instruction in primary, secondary and further education settings. Second, exploring and optimising the fit (i.e. the interactions within and between and the consistency of policy and approaches) of different learning and developmental contexts, e.g. between family (parents), peers, child care (educators) and school teachers and school board members.  

Institutional Contexts: Educational Institutions, Research in Education and Education Systems

This domain refers to a higher level of aggregation and focuses on differences between educational institutions and research in education and differences in the actual functioning of education systems. ‘Institutional context’ has come to play an important role in the explanation of differences in the effectiveness between educational and/or pedagogical institutes. International comparative research plays an important role within this domain.

At the centre of ‘institutional context’ are nexus of intercutting relationships pertaining to the financial bases on which they are founded, governance structures and the extent of ‘choice’ available in different countries as well as variations in decision-making and the ‘locus of control’. The current approach combines decentralisation and autonomy at the fields of finance, governance/organizational structures and personnel with an emphasis on accountability. The crucial elements of institutional context such as funding system, governance structure, autonomy of education institutions, the existence and quality of networks, and freedom of choice are studied.


Diversity as a theme and factor in research will be prominently present in all four domains of research. Although difficult to define as a concept, it refers to culture, language, religion, ethnic and social background, economic status, sexual orientation, political beliefs and/or gender. Taking into account the element(s) of diversity when studying child, parent, and school factors (as well as the interaction and fit between these different contexts) is crucial for the design and execution of appropriate pedagogical and educational programs and interventions that aim to improve the lives of children and youth who are considered to be at risk.