Social Development of Adolescents

The groups pf Christina Salmivalli and René Veenstra in 2008
That's the WALM in 2016

This research line carries out research on the development of adolescents. The focus is on positive and negative developments. Topics that are studied are antisocial behavior (Veenstra, Dijkstra, Sentse, Sijtsema), bullying and victimization (Veenstra, Verlinden, Huitsing, Sainio, Van der Ploeg, Oldenburg, Rambaran, Gremmen, Kaufman, Van Aalst, Fischmann), depression and anxiety (Sentse, LaRoi), parent-child relationships (Sentse, Munniksma), peer acceptance and rejection and popularity (Dijkstra, Pattiselanno, Ruschoff), prosocial behavior (Veenstra, Dijkstra, Van Rijsewijk), romantic relationships (Ivanova, Savickaite), radicalization (Veldhuis), same- and cross-ethnic friendships (Munniksma, Hooijsma), academic achievement (Gremmen, Palacios) and the school-to-work transition (Ruschoff). There is close collaboration with Siegwart Lindenberg and use of the microfoundations developed by him.

This research line often uses a goal-framing approach (Lindenberg, 2006; 2008) for explaining human behavior. Goals can be seen as combinations of representations of desired or undesired end states and knowledge structures (including stereotypes) about ways to realize them. When they are activated or “focal”, goals influence both what people pay special attention to and what they like or dislike. Objects that are deemed to facilitate goal achievement are liked, and objects that are deemed to block goal achievement are disliked. Prosocial behavior is likely to be a feature seen to facilitate goal pursuit and is thus a positive feature. Antisocial behavior, by contrast, is not always seen as a negative feature. Of course, it thwarts goal pursuit for the victims and is perceived as negative by the victims. But for onlookers or collaborators, it may be neutral and sometimes even facilitate goal pursuit, such as status striving.

In addition, goals have great impact on cognitions and emotions and their regulation. Failure to satisfy fundamental needs will lead to pathology in both behavior and emotion regulation. Individual characteristics and social circumstances (including social networks) that help need satisfaction will reduce and those that thwart need satisfaction will increase pathology. Adolescents whose fundamental needs are thwarted are likely to experience a shift in goals towards short-term goals. They are likely to lose self-regulatory capacities, which means that they have a reduced ability to influence their goal-framing process.

To get more insight into these processes, longitudinal data sets are used, such as TRAILS (Veenstra, Dijkstra, Ivanova, LaRoi, Ruschoff, Sentse, Sijtsema), Generation R (Verlinden), KiVa (Fischmann, Gremmen, Hooijsma, Huitsing, Kaufman, Oldenburg, Rambaran, Sainio,Van Aalst, Van der Ploeg), and The Arnhem School Study (Munniksma), SNARE (Dijkstra, Gremmen, Pattiselanno, Van Rijsewijk), and PEAR (Savickaite, LaRoi). This research line uses several analysis techniques, including social network analysis techniques such as SIENA, a program developed by colleagues in Groningen. There is international interest in the application of these social network analysis techniques, in particular in research on adolescents.

The aim is to develop this research line on the development of adolescents in two directions. First, new insights are needed into processes of interactive and cumulative continuity. Vicious cycles can occur as a result of the misfit between a person and the environment, and path dependencies can increasingly restrict persons’ opportunities. Such dynamic processes require new theoretical and methodological approaches. Success with this first challenge will have spin-offs for the second challenge: Disseminating this work and developing interventions. This research line is involved in a promising intervention, the Finnish KiVa Koulu Anti-Bullying Intervention Program, coordinated by Christina Salmivalli, in which bullying is seen as a group process. Not only bullies and victims, but also the class as a whole has a role in the bullying process. The input of this research line for this intervention is the theoretical and empirical elaboration of a social network approach to bullying.

The research group collaborates at the University of Groningen with experts in the fields of sociology (Flache), education (Bosker, Timmerman), statistics (Snijders, Steglich, Van Duijn), and psychiatry (Ormel, Oldehinkel). Nationally there are collaborations with other researchers at Utrecht University (Vollebergh, Harakeh), Radboud University Nijmegen (Cillessen), Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam (Verhulst, Tiemeier), NSCR (Blokland), and WODC (Van der Laan). Some of the work in our research group has been co-authored by international experts including, among others, Berger (Universidad Catolica de Chile), DeLay (Arizona State University), Ellis (University of Utah), Fabes (Arizona State University), Gest (Pennsylvania State University), Hodges (St John's University), Juvonen (UCLA), Kreager (Pennsylvania State University), Little (Texas Tech University), Salmivalli (University of Turku), and Volk (Brock University). Together with these international collaborators, we organize symposia at conferences. Finally, contacts with Dutch researchers in sociology, criminology, psychiatry, and developmental psychology are also available (NSV, NVK conferences). In November 2009, our research group organized a meeting for researchers in the Netherlands in the field of peer relations. In March 2011, our research group was invited to give a Lab Visit Session at the SRCD Peer Relations Preconference 2011 in Montreal, Canada. During 2012-2014 René Veenstra participated in the ECRP program entitled Social Influence in Dynamic Networks. Several projects received external funding, for instance by the Ministry of Education (Onderwijs Bewijs Actieprogramma II), the Ministry of Justice (WODC), NWO VENI, NWO Youth & Family Program, NWO PROO, NWO Toptalent Program, and NWO VICI.

Next to faculty and PhD students, also students from the Research Master's Program Behavioral and Social Sciences and from the honorary program of the Department of Sociology participate in this research line. The coordinator of the research line is René Veenstra.

Key publications

  1. Dijkstra, J.K., Kretschmer, T., Pattiselanno, K., Franken, A., Harakeh, Z., Vollebergh, W., & Veenstra, R. (2015). Explaining adolescents’ delinquency and substance use: A test of the maturity gap. Journal of Research on Crime and Delinquency, 52, 747-767. [Video Abstract]
  2. Dijkstra, J.K., Lindenberg, S., & Veenstra, R. (2007). Same-gender and cross-gender peer acceptance and peer rejection and their relation to bullying and helping among preadolescents: Comparing predictions from gender-homophily and goal-framing approaches. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1377-1389.
  3. Dijkstra, J.K., Cillessen, A.H.N., Lindenberg, S., & Veenstra, R. (2010). Basking in reflected glory and its limits: Why adolescents hang out with popular peers. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 20, 942-958.
  4. Dijkstra, J.K., Lindenberg, S., & Veenstra, R. (2008). Beyond the class norm: Bullying behavior of popular adolescents and its relation to peer acceptance and rejection. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36, 1289-1299.
  5. Dijkstra, J.K., Lindenberg, S., Veenstra, R., Steglich, C., Isaacs, J. , Card, N.A. & Hodges, E.V.E. (2010). Influence and selection processes in weapon carrying during adolescence: The roles of status, aggression, and vulnerability. Criminology, 48, 187-220.
  6. Dijkstra, J.K., Lindenberg, S., Verhulst, F.C., Ormel, J., & Veenstra, R. (2009). The relation between popularity and aggressive, destructive, and norm-breaking behaviors: Moderating effects of athletic abilities, physical attractiveness, and prosociality. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 19, 401-413.
  7. Gremmen, M.C., Dijkstra, J.K., Steglich, C. & Veenstra, R. (2017). First selection, then influence: Developmental differences in friendship dynamics regarding academic achievement. Developmental Psychology, 53, 1356-1370.
  8. Huitsing, G., Snijders, T.A.B., Van Duijn, M.A.J., & Veenstra, R. (2014). Victims, bullies, and their defenders: A longitudinal study of the co-evolution of positive and negative networks. Development and Psychopathology, 26, 645-659. [Supplemental Materials]
  9. Huitsing, G., Van Duijn, M. A. J., Snijders, T. A. B., Wang, P., Sainio, M., Salmivalli, C.,& Veenstra, R. (2012). Univariate and multivariate models of positive and negative networks: Liking, disliking, and bully-victim relationships social networks. Social Networks, 34, 645-657.
  10. Huitsing, G., & Veenstra, R. (2012). Bullying in classrooms: Participant roles from a social network perspective. Aggressive Behavior, 38, 494-509.
  11. Kretschmer , T., Veenstra, R., Branje, S.J.T., Dekovic., M., Koot, H.M., Meeus, W.H.J., Reijneveld, S.A., Vollebergh, W.A.M., & Oldehinkel, A.J., (2018). How competent are adolescent bullying perpetrators and victims in mastering normative developmental tasks in early adulthood? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, DOI: 10.1007/s10802-017-0316-3.
  12. Laninga-Wijnen, L., Harakeh, Z., Steglich, C., Dijkstra, J.K., Veenstra, R., & Vollebergh, W. (2017). The norms of popular peers moderate friendship dynamics of adolescent aggression. Child Development, 88, 1265-1283.
  13. Oldenburg, B., Bosman, M.H., & Veenstra, R. (2016). Are elementary school teachers prepared to tackle bullying? A pilot study. School Psychology International, 37, 64-72. [Video Abstract]
  14. Rambaran, J.A., Hopmeyer, A., Schwartz, D., Steglich, C., Badaly, D., & Veenstra, R. (2016). Academic functioning and peer influences: A short-term longitudinal study of network-behavior dynamics in middle adolescence. Child Development, 88, 523-543.
  15. Sentse, M., Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Verhulst, F.C., & Ormel, J. (2009). Buffers and risks in temperament and family for early adolescent psychopathology: Generic, conditional, or domain-specific effects? Developmental Psychology, 45, 419-430.
  16. Sentse, M., Lindenberg, S., Omvlee, A., Ormel, J., & Veenstra, R. (2010). Rejection and acceptance across contexts: Parents and peers as risks and buffers for early adolescent psychopathology. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 119-130.
  17. Sijtsema, J.J., Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., & Salmivalli, C. (2009). Empirical test of bullies' status goals: Assessing direct goals, aggression, and prestige. Aggressive Behavior, 35, 57-67.
  18. Van der Ploeg, R., Kretschmer, T., Saarento, S., Salmivalli, C., & Veenstra, R. (2017). Defending victims of bullying: What does it take to intervene in bullying and how is it rewarded by peers? Journal of School Psychology, DOI: 10.1016/j.jsp.2017.06.002.
  19. Van der Ploeg, R., Steglich, C., Salmivalli, C., & Veenstra, R. (2015). The intensity of victimization: Associations with children's psychosocial well-being and social standing in the classroom. PLoS ONE, 10, e0141490.
  20. Van Rijsewijk, L., Dijkstra, J.K., Pattiselanno, K., Steglich, C. & Veenstra, R. (2016). Who helps whom? Investigating the development of adolescent prosocial relationships. Developmental Psychology, 52, 894-908.
  21. Veenstra, R., Dijkstra, J.K., & Kreager, D.A. (2017). Pathways, networks, and norms: A sociological perspective on peer research. In W.M. Bukowski, B. Laursen, & K.H. Rubin (eds.) Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups (2nd edition). New York: Guilford.
  22. Veenstra, R., Dijkstra, J.K., Steglich, C., & Van Zalk, M.H.W. (2013). Network-behavior dynamics. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 23, 399-412.
  23. Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Huitsing, G., Sainio, M., & Salmivalli, C. (2014). The role of teachers in bullying: The relation between antibullying attitudes, efficacy, and efforts to reduce bullying. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106, 1135-1143.
  24. Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Munniksma, A., & Dijkstra, J.K. (2010). The complex relation between bullying, victimization, acceptance, and rejection: Giving special attention to status, affection, and sex differences. Child Development, 81, 480-486.
  25. Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Oldehinkel, A.J., De Winter, A.F., Verhulst, F.C., & Ormel, J. (2005). Bullying and victimization in elementary schools: A comparison of bullies, victims, bully/victims, and uninvolved preadolescents. Developmental Psychology, 41, 672-682.
  26. Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Tinga, F., & Ormel, J. (2010). Truancy in late elementary and early secondary education: The influence of social bonds and self-control. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34, 302-310.
  27. Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Verhulst, F.C., & Ormel, J. (2009). Childhood-limited versus persistent antisocial behavior: Why do some recover and others do not? The TRAILS study. Journal of Early Adolescence, 29, 718-742.
  28. Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Zijlstra, B.J.H., De Winter, A.F., Verhulst, F.C., & Ormel, J. (2007). The dyadic nature of bullying and victimization: Testing a dual perspective theory. Child Development, 78, 1843-1854.
  29. Verlinden, M., Veenstra, R., Ringoot, A.P., Jansen, P.W., Raat, H., Hofman, A., Jaddoe, V.W.V, Verhulst, F.C., & Tiemeier, H. (2014). Detecting bullying in early elementary school with a computerized peer-nomination instrument. Psychological Assessment, 26, 628-641. [Supplemental Materials]
  30. Volk, A.A., Veenstra, R., & Espelage, D.L., (2017). So you want to study bullying? Recommendations to enhance the validity, transparency, and compatibility of bullying research. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 36, 34-43.
[Lab Visit Session at SRCD Preconference 2011] [WALM Newsletters]
That's the WALM
That's the WALM