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“It has become more normal to talk about anxiety and depression. It can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says neuropsychologist Eveline Crone

by News Room
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Psychologist and neuroscientist Eveline Crone was scheduled to speak in Los Angeles, California in early May. But that didn’t happen. The pro-Palestinian students had occupied the university campus. Fights broke out with pro-Israel students.

Do you see it as a form of commitment?

“Yes, and I understand that, but the profession and certain violence are going too far for me. Students sometimes have to give up a lot to get into college. They can’t attend their classes now.”

Did you go home again?

“No. My daughter was with me, she’s almost sixteen and would be attending the symposium. We had just taken a road trip. San Diego, Joshua Tree Park, LA. And I was able to talk to a lot of colleagues.”

He is famous for his research on the young brain. And through his books, The brain of the young in The social brain of the youngAlmost everyone now knows why teenagers and young adults can have trouble planning and organizing, being motivated toward their tasks, and managing their emotions. Their brains, especially the areas related to cognitive functions, are still developing. It lasts until they turn twenty-five.

At the age of 33, Eveline Crone was a professor in Leiden and since 2020 she has also worked at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He is a professor there developmental neuroscience in society. He incorporates into his work, and this is new, social insights. And he involves young people in research questions. What do they find important? What do they need? He has just become the chairman of the scientific advisory board of the MIND Us foundation, which is committed to the mental health of young people, together with young people.

In early May, it was announced that he would become a member of the US National Academy of Sciences. He advises politicians and decision-makers, requested and unsolicited, on social issues. Only the best researchers are invited. “Seems to be highly respected,” he sends an e-mail and says on the phone that it is an international trend to talk to subjects as equals. “In the United States, this type of research is increasingly seen and appreciated.”

My mother was a pediatrician in Schiedam and she saw children and parents from very different backgrounds in her office

When did it start for you?

“About five years ago. Before that, I needed all my attention to understand the brains of young people and to develop measurement methods to make valid statements about the brain and behavior. Now I also work with questionnaires and youth panels. It started to bother me that we were only looking at certain groups of young people, young people who are interested in participating in research . Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them and I’m grateful for their contribution, but I thought: am I reaching the right groups, am I asking the right questions? My mother was a pediatrician in Schiedam and she saw children and parents from very different backgrounds. I didn’t.

Did you go looking for them?

“Yes, and the pandemic changed this new way of doing research. Then we started talking to many different young people, including young people from South Rotterdam, who are not often seen on panels or One today. What do you run into? We were able to debunk a few myths pretty quickly, for example, that young people turned off their cameras during lockdowns during online classes because they were apathetic. But it was inability, uncertainty. I noticed at the time that politicians liked to talk about the interests of young people. In practice, they always came behind. The interests of the elderly always came first. Then it shouldn’t be surprising that young people trust politics less.”

Some young people tell us that they feel that sexual freedom is being forced on them

What topics do the young people you talk to think are important?

“Social inequality. Concerns about the climate. Pressure to perform and mental health. Physical health. When you think pressure to perform, you think: rich families. But the children of newcomers also feel the pressure. They say: my parents gave up a lot for us and now they want me to be a doctor or a lawyer. And then they also have part-time jobs to support themselves financially. They take care of their younger brothers or sisters.”

Do you also see that young people are becoming more conservative?

“In the November student elections, the majority of high school and vocational students voted for conservative parties, but the motives are not always clear. Is it because he is a the winning team do you want to hear? Do they have concerns we don’t yet understand? There is a lot of uncertainty about the future, because of the war and the climate, because of the housing shortage. And how are things going financially? Some young people tell us that they feel that sexual freedom is being forced on them. We’re going to find out if this is widely accepted.”

And social media? Do young people say this increases their stress?

“They don’t mention it as a source of performance pressure. They don’t seem to feel that way. I feel like there is surprisingly little opposition to banning phones in the classroom. Like they’re okay with that. I find it very troubling: Big tech companies in the US are hiring neuroscientists to make people even more addicted to their phones by adding certain algorithms to apps. Colleagues who know everything about the brain of young people.”

All young people have the same basic needs: discovering the world, building intimate friendships…

Why do more young people suffer from anxiety and depression?

“Yes, how so? Twenty years ago it started to rise, anyway it was reported more often, and not only in the Netherlands. The pandemic has acted as a catalyst. Some researchers say it is due to social media. I don’t think you can connect it individually. Anyway it is not the only explanation. And so much is changing in the world. Parents are expecting more from their children. It can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. “

What can we do about it?

“Empowering young people in what makes them stronger. They all have the same basic needs: to discover the world, to build close friendships, to be heard and seen. Let them do things outside of school. Organize sports activities. Give them a say. It’s not just: you need to get stronger. The environment must also be strengthened.”

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