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All living creatures have to cope with environmental
demands and threats that challenge their physical
or emotional homeostasis.

  • harmelen van anne laura

Increasing social resilience in young people

Research till now: a short summary. At the University of Cambridge, van Harmelen leads the Risk and Resilience group, which examines how to increase social resilience in young people with a history of early adverse life experiences.

This is important as childhood adversity (e.g. child abuse, neglect, peer victimization, parental psychopathology) is experienced by up to 50% of children and adolescents growing up worldwide and is one of the strongest predictors of social problems in later life. Young people with a history of child adversity are 4-11 times more likely to have been involved in violence, binge drinking, drug use, to have been incarcerated, and to develop mental and physical health problems than young people without adverse experiences. Research from her group has already provided crucial first steps in our understanding of the social, psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that underpin social resilience after childhood adversity. She argues, that resilience is the product of dynamic interactions across these social, psychological and biological levels.

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Next steps

At Leiden, van Harmelen will examine the mechanisms of social risk andresilience in young people. Increasing social safety and resilience in adolescence is a major priority for educators, practitioners, policy makers, and the criminal justice system, as such efforts have the potential to considerable reduce the presence of violence in society, as well as lowering educational under-attainment, poor economic outcomes and may help address the burgeoning youth mental health crisis. In order to do so, van Harmelen will work together with researchers from the Social Security and Resilience programme to address questions that transcend boundaries of traditional scientific expertise, such as:

What are the historic and cultural differences of risk and resilience in adolescence? What differentiates normative from (online) risk and resilience behaviours in adolescence? What are the cultural, environmental, social, neurocognitive and genetic risk and resilience mechanisms in young people? What are the implications of behavioural scientific insights concerning the evolving capacities of adolescents for their legal position, for instance regarding their criminal culpability? What are most effective justice and governance structures and decisions for young people with differential risk and resilience profiles? How can the government change policies to increase social resilience in young people?

As such, by working together with key expertise and integrate knowledge from the Departments of Archaeology, Law, Global Governance and Affairs (FGGA), Social Sciences (FSW) and Humanities (Philosophy) van Harmelen's research aims to ultimately help increase social resilience in young people‚Äč.

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