Research at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology

The Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology is part of Erasmus University Medical Center-Sophia Children’s Hospital. The Department was established in 1969. Patient care, teaching and research are the main activities of the Department currently carried out by 200 persons, or 160 full-time equivalents. The Department’s research activities and productivity have strongly increased over the last few years.

Through its research activities, the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology aims to contribute to improving the mental health of children and adolescents, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Research Line
The Department studies the frequency, determinants and course of child psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, somatoform disorders, aggressive and antisocial behaviors, hyperactivity, and developmental problems. The Department uses epidemiological methods to study psychopathology in the general population, in at risk populations, and in clinical samples. Through these activities the Department aims to: (1) develop and test assessment instruments and diagnostic procedures, (2) assess the prevalence and incidence of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders, (3) study the onset and course of psychopathology from infancy into adulthood, and (4) determine the role of etiological factors using longitudinal research designs.

We have joined our research activities in one main program: “Assessment, Aetiology and Course of Child and Adolescent Psychopathology”. We have organized our research around two main types of cohorts: (1) general population cohort, and (2) at risk and clinical cohorts.

General population studies
Within our Department the prevalence and course of child and adolescent psychiatric conditions have been studied in Dutch general population samples from prenatal life to 40 years of age. These studies emphasized the high prevalence (7%) of serious psychiatric problems in Dutch children and adolescents as well as the cross-cultural similarity of child/adolescent psychopathology. Time trend studies showed that there is no sharp increase in prevalence of psychopathology in children across a period of twenty years despite an increase in use of mental health services.

Two internationally known longitudinal studies in which the Department is a key participant stand out because of their large scale and in depth measurements: Generation R and TRAILS. Generation R is a multidisciplinary prenatal cohort study following nearly 10.000 children born in Rotterdam, with the goal to follow these children and their families from pregnancy into young adulthood. TRAILS is a cohort study of 2.500 10-year-olds in the northern provinces. Both Generation R and TRAILS aim to unravel etiological mechanisms, with a special focus on the interplay between biological vulnerabilities, including genetic factors, and environmental risks. Population neuroimaging is a unique feature within GenerationR.

Clinical and at risk populations
We have assessed the prevalence and longitudinal course of problem behaviors and quality of life in ethnic minority groups, adopted children, children and adolescents with mental retardation, children and adolescents with psychiatric conditions (especially children and adolescents with anxiety and autism spectrum disorders), and children and adolescents with medical conditions.
The Department has recently collected two large clinical cohorts: (1) based on all consecutive patients referred to our outpatient department across the last decade (consisting of 2000 children and adolescents). Our aim is study the genetic risk factors, and (2) a population-based cohort of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders in the South-West of The Netherlands. In its clinical studies, the Department successfully builds on research alliances with mental agencies in our region.

Currently, the department has started research with children with known genetic conditions in combination with psychiatric problems, such as children with Fragile-X, tuberous sclerosis, neurofibromatosis and Angelman syndrome. In addition, the department has recently collaborated with the department of pediatrics in neuroimaging studies of children with severe medical problems in early life.

Each of our research activities organized by type of sample is described in more detail on this website.

External Collaborations
• University Medical Center Groningen (Prof.dr. A.J Oldehinkel)
• Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Prof.dr. D. Boomsma, Prof.dr. M. Verhage, Prof dr. D     Posthuma, dr. O. van den Heuvel)
• Universiteit Leiden (Prof.dr. M. van IJzendoorn, Prof.dr. M.J. Bakermans-Kramer)
• University of Vermont, USA (Prof.dr. T. Achenbach, Prof.dr. J. Hudziak)
• University of New Mexico, USA (Prof.dr. V.D. Calhoun)
• Oxford University, UK (dr. A. James)
• University of Chicago, USA (Prof.dr. B. Lahey)
• Montreal Neurological Institute (Prof.dr. A. Evans)

Societal impact
With our research, teaching and clinical activities, we aim to influence child and adolescent psychiatric health, policy and practice. A major influence has been the introduction of standardized assessment procedures in The Netherlands and Belgium. The department serves as publisher for diagnostic assessment materials and provides advice both for practitioners and researchers. Nearly every practitioner in the field of child and adolescent psychopathology in our country uses instruments provided by the Department.
Several staff members have participated or participate in national committees such as the Dutch Health Council, ZonMw board and committees, and other national committees, and have thereby contributed actively to public health policy in the Netherlands.
The core aim of our research activities is to advance scientific knowledge in the hopes that children and families will benefit. To accomplish this, we strive to publish our findings in international peer-reviewed journals and actively participate in the dissemination of knowledge into health policy and practice. To that aim we have been successful in publishing and updating the Dutch textbook of child and adolescent psychiatry, which is regarded as the standard in our country and Belgium. The Department has also been successful in publishing other books that are regarded as standard works, including a textbook on normal child development. Also, the Department is active in organizing national symposia and conferences.


Prof.dr. M.H.J. (Manon) Hillegers

Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology
P.O. Box 2060, 3000 CB  Rotterdam

Tel: +31 10 703 62 13
Email d.l.paling-stout@erasmusmc.nl