Consequences of Adolescent Peer Experiences across Contexts and Generations

Watch a quick summary of CAPE on Youtube.

Team: CAPE is funded by an ERC Starting Grant awarded in 2017. The core research team consists of Tina Kretschmer (PI), Charlotte Vrijen (Postdoc), and Maria Wiertsema (PhD Student), as well as Rozemarijn van der Ploeg. In 2021/2022, Pien Brouwer and Melanie van Zwolle join the team as part of their Honours program and Kim Ruiter and Tineke Klaver conduct their Master’s thesis research in the CAPE project.

Background and open questions: So far, research on consequences of adolescent peer experiences has focused largely on psychological and behavioural outcomes. For instance, being bullied in adolescence is thought to increase the risk for depressive symptoms and anxiety whereas being a bully is more predictive of later substance use. Theories such as attachment and social learning theory, however, also suggests that interpersonal experiences can be transmitted across social contexts and generations. What does that mean for peer experiences? 

  1. We know that adolescent peer experiences are central to romantic development through providing opportunities to meet dating partners. Peer relationships also enable young people to develop the skills that are needed to navigate romantic relationships. What, then, happens if peer relationships are not optimal?
  2. We also know that traits, behaviours, and relationship experiences are partially passed on from one generation to the next. This has been studied mainly for parent-child relationship quality and romantic relationships but it likely that peer experiences are also passed on to the next generation. This would mean that individual differences in social development has its origins partly in the developmental histories of parents. This assumption challenges our current understanding of social development.

The CAPE project: We investigate whether and how peer experiences are transmitted a) to adult friendships and romantic relationships, and b) across generations, i.e., passed on to offspring, to shed light on how the “ghosts from peer past” affect young adults’ relationships and their children’s early social development. We combine qualitative and longitudinal quantitative methods and take a genetically-informed approach. In CAPE, we mainly work with data from the TRAILS cohort that has been followed since age 11. To study intergenerational transmission, we work with TRAILS NEXT

CAPE in the media: University of Groningen announcement, Dagblad van het Noorden announcement and report (in Dutch), Sustainable Society video interview

For additional information and how to get involved, please get in touch via email.