Child and Family Science

Most children grow up with their biological families, but some are brought up in adoptive families, in foster care or in institutions. Children’s experiences with their primary caregivers have a profound influence on their development. If you are interested in how parental and professional caregivers shape children’s lives, the master’s specialisation in Child and Family Science is the ideal choice for you.

Child and Family Science is one of the eight specialisations of the Master’s programme in Education and Child Studies that you can choose at Leiden University.

The master specialisation Child and Family Science focuses on child development in the context of different caregiving circumstances. The courses cover both normative and problematic caregiving, ranging from sensitive and warm parenting to abuse and neglect, and from stable family circumstances to divorce and temporary foster care.

An important part of the curriculum is the study of evidence based prevention and intervention programmes to improve caregiving qualities of parents and professional caregivers.

You will study key questions that address the most important processes in caregiving, parenting and child development. Questions that are central to Child and Family Science include:

  • Which early experiences increase the risk of developing behavioral problems?
  • Do parents’ childhood experiences affect the way they raise their children?
  • What circumstances are important for the development of adopted and foster children?
  • How do neurobiological processes influence the behavior of parents and children?
  • What is the role of genetic factors and the interaction between genetic predisposition and environment in child development and in parenting behavior?
  • How do day care experiences relate to child development?
  • What are the prevalence, causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect?
  • How can interventions contribute to the improvement of parenting qualities?
  • How do new and alternative family types relate to child development?
  • How does culture play a role in parenting and child development?

Why choose this specialisation at Leiden University?

If you wish to become an expert in the field of child development, parenting styles, raising children and day care, then Child and Family Science is the specialisation for you. You learn how crucial parents – both mothers and fathers – and other caregivers are in shaping child development. Not only in relatively regular settings and circumstances, but also in situations of family violence, institutional neglect, or social upheaval such as divorce.

Master details

  • This is a specialisation of: Education and Child Studies
  • Degree Master of Science in Education and Child Studies
  • Mode of study Full-time and part-time. Part-time study is not possible for students requiring a visa or residence permit.
  • Duration 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
  • Start date September, February
  • Language of instruction English
  • Location Leiden
  • Croho/isat code 60396

Prof. Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg

“Children’s attachment relationship with their care-givers affects many different aspects of their development: physical, emotional and cognitive.”

“Children who are securely attached develop better. The attachment relationship of children with their care-givers affects many different aspects of their development. This is why attachment is one of the core themes of our research within the Centre for Child and Family Studies. For instance, we are currently conducting research in children’s homes in Greece and the Ukraine. These children’s homes offer a clean environment, good medical care and nourishing food, but the children will sometimes have had fifty different care-givers by the time they’re three years old. They have often been unable to build up a relationship with any of these. This has disastrous consequences for their physical, emotional and cognitive development.

The good news is that children can make an almost complete recovery from such a difficult start if they are placed, for instance, in an adoptive family where they receive sensitive personal attention. They make up the deficit in growth and weight, and their IQ also increases. However, because adoption will not be the outcome for all children in homes, it’s important to try and ensure that the care and nurturing of young children in homes is provided by just one or at most a few care-givers. Investing in the care of children is investing in the future.”

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