Consortium on Individual Development


Most children develop well and find their way in society without major problems, but some do not.

The Consortium on Individual Development (CID) aims to advance our knowledge and understanding of why some children thrive and others don’t. We plan to develop a model of how developmental differences between children arise and fill in crucial gaps in our knowledge of the role of brain development, effects of interventions in the environment, and intergenerational transmission.

How the environment and child characteristics affect the development of social competence and behavioural control.

CID examines how the environment (family characteristics, parents and siblings, peers, and broader societal influences including media) and child characteristics (genetic makeup, temperament, and pre- and perinatal factors) affect the development of social competence (SC) and behavioural control (BC), skills that are essential for functioning in society and for reducing risk of behavioural and emotional problems. For more information on the implementation of these two central CID measures see the section on Social competence and behavioural control measures.

Work packages

CID research is grouped into four work packages (WPs), each focusing on specific aspects of development:

WP1: The role of brain development

The neurobiological developmental trajectory of newborns, children, and adolescents is not fully understood. In particular, we are only just beginning to learn to what extent genetic and environmental factors influence brain development and how these effects in turn influence behaviour. WP1 focuses on brain development in relation to behaviour, specifically on social competence and behavioural control and addresses questions regarding their interrelationships, how associations might develop as a function of age, gender, genetic influences, and environmental exposures.


WP2: Effects of interventions

Children are not equally vulnerable to adverse rearing environments, nor do they equally profit from supportive environments. Differential susceptibility theory proposes that vulnerable children, who suffer most from bad environments, are also more receptive to positive changes in the child rearing and wider social environment. Central questions are: Which children are most susceptible to environmental influences, and what are the neurobiological mechanisms by which the environment influences children’s social competence and behavioural control? These questions are addressed experimentally in longitudinal randomized controlled trials (Leiden-Consortium Individual Development, L-CID), using cognitive and behavioural interventions.

WP3The role of generational transmission in families

The WP3 studies investigate how the characteristics of grandparents (Generation 1, G1) impact the development of parents (Generation 2, G2) and – through them – the development of their children (Generation 3, G3). These studies have a multigenerational design and investigate the extent to which genetic and non-genetic transmission between generations causes differences in developmental outcomes in children and adolescents. The three-generation design is used to study behavioural transmission. Two- and three-generation designs are used to study the epigenetics of transmission and to untangle genetic and environmental processes of transmission of processes related to behavioural control and social competence.

WP4Animal and mathematical models of development

We aim to gain an understanding of how gene x environment (G x E) interactions influence the development of behavioural control and social competence (relevant to work packages 1-3). To this end, we will use models to study G x E interactions under highly controlled conditions; use experimental methods to examine specific brain connections (down to the level of synapses); investigate trans-generational effects within a time-frame of a few years; and test the validity of specific theoretical frameworks, which in turn can be used to guide future experiments. Like the other WPs, WP4 makes use of shared technology (e.g. neuroimaging) and has a focus on behavioural control and social competence.


Several longitudinal cohort studies support the different work packages. Each cohort includes both shared and specific measures of social competence and behavioural control. In addition, several developmental traits are collected in all cohorts. Together, this allows integration of datasets as well as more focused analysis in two or more cohorts.

  • WP1 (Brain development) the YOUth cohort based in Utrecht.
    YOUth is a large scale, longitudinal cohort study, following children in their development from pregnancy until early adulthood.
  • WP2 (Effects of interventions) the L-CID intervention cohort based in Leiden.
    Large-scale experimental-longitudinal interventions of parent and peer behaviour are carried out in same-sex twins, allowing for testing of which child characteristics shape the effect of (manipulated) environmental factors
  • WP3 (Generational transmission in families) four existing longitudinal cohorts:
    (i) TRAILS based in Groningen.
    TRAILS (Tracking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey) is an ongoing, multidisciplinary study on the psychological, social and physical development of adolescents and young adults. The recently launched TRAILS Next cohort focuses on the children of the participants.
    (ii) Generation-R based in Rotterdam.
    Generation R study is a prospective cohort study from foetal life until young adulthood in a multi-ethnic urban population
    (iii) RADAR based in Utrecht.
    RADAR (Research on Adolescent Development And Relationships) is a population-based prospective cohort study with a full family design. In 2014, RADAR: The Third Generation (RADAR G3) started to include RADAR participants who were parents-to-be or who had a child under the age of 4.5 years.
    (iv) NTR based in Amsterdam.
    NTR (Netherlands Twin Register) began in 1987 with data collection in twins and their families, including families with newborn twins and triplets. Now these twins, for whom there is data since infancy, are becoming parents themselves. So NTR has recently started collecting multigenerational data in this unique group.
  • WP4 (Animal and mathematical models of development) animal cohort.