Societal Challenges: An Intergenerational perspective

The Societal Challenges Lab is part of both the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs and the Faculty of Social Sciences at Leiden University in the Netherlands.


The Societal Challenges Lab focuses on studying the factors involved in creating inclusive societies for young people across the globe. Our quest is to understand the intergenerational transmission of social norms and behavioral patterns in different cultural and socioeconomic contexts, and the wider societal repercussions of such processes. Core topics are cultural and gender socialization in families, schools, and societies, and the socialization origins of prejudice. The key questions addressed by the research team of the Societal Challenges Lab are:

  • What are universal aspects of childhood socialization, and which aspects of raising and teaching children are culture-specific?
  • What do professionals working with children and families need to provide inclusive care and support?
  • How do socialization agents such as  parents, teachers, peers, school curricula,  books, media, and public policies reduce or foster prejudice in children?
  • What are the universal and culture-specific aspects of these socialization processes?
  • What are the most effective types of interventions to remove or diminish societal inequalities and contribute to inclusive societies?

One of the main research methods of the Lab's program is video observation in families. A time-consuming method, but one that provides unique opportunities for in-depth quantitative and qualitative analyses of socialization patterns. The team has so far collected and analyzed over 10,000 hours of video materials of ca. 2,000 families in 22 countries. As part of this process, we invest in inclusive science collaborations with academic institutes in  the Global South, and in mentoring graduate students from those countries, with the explicit goal of sharing knowledge and scientific opportunities across regional boundaries. In addition, the team analyzes the content of school materials, children's books, and media to uncover the social norms that are implicitly and explicitly transmitted to children. 


Finally, outreach activities are an important part of the Lab's profile, working with public institutions, policy makers, professionals, and the general public to co-create and share scientific knowledge that can make a difference to society.






November 2019

Bijna uit: twee rapporten over representatie en stereotypen in schoolboeken. De rapporten beschrijven de resultaten van een onderzoek naar gender en etniciteit in brugklasboeken voor wiskunde en Nederlands. De rapporten verschijnen op woensdag 13 november

November 2019

Read the blogs on education and children's rights in the month of the 30th anniversary of the international declaration of children's rights. One blog post every day by Judi Mesman and Ton Liefaard to illustrate how schools are faced with several challenges when trying to provide appropriate care and support for vulnerable children. Read the blogs HERE.

November 25, 2019

Discussion about gender and ethnic stereotypes in school books at Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. Panel members include Judi Mesman, Daudi van Veen, Sunny Bergman, Miguel Heilbron and others.  See HERE for more  information (in Dutch).

October 2019

Are mothers or fathers more sensitive to young children? A study by Marjolein Branger and colleagues discussed at the child and family blog. Read HERE (in English).

September 2019

Why is it important to reduce gender stereotyping in children's toys? Judi Mesman explains on RTL News. See the episode HERE (in Dutch).

September 2019

Why is it important to reduce gender stereotyping in children's toys? Judi Mesman explains on Eenvandaag. See the episode HERE (in Dutch).

September 2019

Symposium at Pharos  about sensitive care of children from a cross-cultural perspective. Judi Mesman shares her insights from video observations across the globe. Read more HERE (in Dutch).

June 2019

Leiden University College (LUC) receives grant for increasing student diversity from ECHO (Students4Students program).  The project title is 'from international to diverse' and aims to understand why some groups are underrepresented at LUC, and to use these insights to improve recruitment strategies in this regard. Read more in Dutch or in English

June 2019

Breakfast at the Cobra museum with a session discussing visions of the city through the eyes of three generations. Judi Mesman will talk about children's points of view. Read more... (in Dutch)

April 2019 asks Judi Mesman whether  role models are important for  girls to strengthen their confidence and foster their ambitions. Watch the episode HERE. (in Dutch)

April 2019

NEMO Kennislink Live about gender: man of vrouw, roze of blauw. Judi Mesman and Geertje Mak talk about the origins and maintenance of gender roles.  Read more HERE (in Dutch).

February 2019

Finissage of the exposition 'Een ontembare kracht' at the  Cobra Museum in Amstelveen. Judi Mesman presents the findings of her study on children's drawings about the future. 

February 2019

The Leiden Loves Science event at the Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden. What makes Judi Mesman tick as a scientist? How did her interest in studying parenting across cultures develop?

December 2018

Judi Mesman in Me Jane, you Tarzan on NPO3, a series on gender roles and stereotypes. This episode focuses on the role of parents in how children learn about what it means to be a boy or a girl. Watch the episode HERE (in Dutch).

November 2018

Judi Mesman on Focus radio in an extended interview on  gender stereotypes in children's books and other gender socialization mechanisms. Listen to the broadcast HERE (in Dutch).

October 2018

Judi Mesman speaker at the KNAW symposium about the first 1000 days of child development, 1 October 2018. Read more HERE (in Dutch).

September 2018

Judi Mesman and Gustaaf Peek kick off the Me, Asian?! event series at Leiden University College, aimed at finding out what it means to be Asian in The Hague.  Read more...

May 2018

Judi Mesman on RTL news 

Judi Mesman shows her scientific vision on gender specific child raising and gives some advise for parents who want to be more aware of the way they raise their child in a gender specific way. Watch the fragment HERE (in dutch)

April 2018

Judi Mesman elected as a member of KNAW

Judi Mesman is elected as a member of the KNAW (Koninklijke Nederlandse Academie voor de Wetenschappen). You can read the article HERE (in dutch)

March 2018

Annie Romein Verschoor Lecture  

On International Womensday, the yearly Annie Romein Verschoor lecture was organized. Minister Jet Bussemaker and journalist Lanyae Aharouay were the speakers on this evening. Read more... (in dutch)

February 2018

'Startimpuls' Event NWA 

On February 19, the researchers of 2 NWA routes gathered in the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden. Both routes presented their work up until now. It was a very successful day! Read more HERE and HERE (both in dutch).

December 2017

Judi Mesman about genderconscious  childraising wrote an article about genderconscious childraising, and asked Judi about her opinion on the subject. Read more...