Prevention and Treatment

We’re committed to insuring that the results of virtually all our research is applied — in the short or long term — to the ultimate goal of improving children’s and families’ quality of life. A large measure of our success comes from developing intervention programs and rigorously implementing and evaluating these interventions so that we can continually refine and advance both science and practice.

Over the past few years, our program as a whole has restructured our priorities to focus on integrating translational goals across the vast majority of our research projects. This shift would be impossible without the foundational partnerships that we have developed with national and local community institutions. One of the greatest strengths of our network is that it applies our basic research findings directly into the community, the context in which most clinical work happens. Our collective goals include:

  1. developing and implementing prevention and intervention programs for youth and families based on results from our fundamental studies (valorisation);
  2. designing prevention and intervention effectiveness studies that integrate ‘frontline’ concerns and pragmatic realities (impact); and
  3. disseminating findings to practitioners and policy makers through a variety of innovative knowledge translation forums (impact). In the next phase we will put increasing emphasis on
  4. developing updated training materials based on our research and clinical findings and
  5. providing the empirical fodder for substantial policy changes relevant to promoting children and youths’ mental health. In addition to testing the effectiveness of programs, we invest in the implementation process to assure sustainability after our studies are completed.

Some examples of the impact of our work follows: our work on parental rule setting and adolescent drinking led to the Ministry of Health changing their focus to direct attention and resources to parent education; mass-media campaigns and national and regional prevention efforts are concentrated on involvement of parents. With Stivoro and Trimbos Institute, we developed a theory-based strategy to focus on parent involvement in primary prevention. Examples are two @home substance use education programs for parents of primary school children, an online course for parents of teens on substance use, online brief alcohol interventions for low SES youth and students, and a smoking cessation program for parents. All programs and materials are developed with our group, and effectiveness is tested with RCT studies.

We are currently testing and further refining the Healthy School and Substance Use program, a prevention program for secondary education which is carried out at 70% of all schools in the Netherlands. ZoNMw awarded us in fall 2010 with a €1.250.000 grant for a prestigious center of excellence. This Academic Center Youth Nijmegen is a multi-disciplinary collaboration between institutions in the Nijmegen region, focusing on prevention and treatment of internalizing problems, and the co-occurrence with externalizing problems. This center of excellence has four aims:

  1. to stimulate knowledge transfer between professionals,
  2. to install a Focused Routine Care Monitoring system in which clients are traced and followed over time,
  3. to carry out research projects in institutions in collaboration with researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen (9 external PhD-projects start in 2011),
  4. to support post-master training and supervision of professionals, and to transfer knowledge to BA and MA students.

By providing us with a formal collaborative structure, as well as the funding to strengthen those collaborations, the center of excellence has intensified our motivation and determination to work in partnership with the most relevant stake-holders to implement theory-based evidence-based programs in the real world.

Some of our past research includes the following: The PAS project showed strong effects of a combined parent-adolescent alcohol prevention approach on delaying onset and risky drinking (Koning et al., 2009, 2010) but just as important revealed that the prevention effects run through the expected mediators (parental strictness and adolescent self control)(Koning et al., 2010). Nijhof et al. (2009) reported that intensive residential treatment for problematic youth needs intensive structural involvement of parent, and that those with psychopathic traits are likely to have poor treatment outcomes (Nijhof et al., 2010). We are committed to not only examining treatment outcomes but also establishing the underlying mechanisms by which these interventions work. Granic and her colleagues showed that improvements in aggressive children’s problem behaviour were mediated through neural changes associated with the regulation of anxiety (Lewis et al., 2008; Woltering et al., 2011) and is affected by maternal depression (Grimbos & Granic, 2009).