PhD Candidates: Popularity Motivation and Bullying in Youth

PhD Candidates: Popularity Motivation and Bullying in Youth

Published Deadline Location
1 Feb 8 Apr Nijmegen

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Job description

Do you want to help introduce novel ways to measure how much youth cares about popularity? Do you want to conduct research in schools to find out whether these motivations cause youth to bully or support bullies? If so, you have a part to play! We are looking for two PhD candidates motivated to research how primary and secondary school youth may experience high popularity as rewarding and low popularity as threatening, and how this is related to their involvement in bullying.

Bullying is a major problem among youth and has devastating consequences. In order to develop more effective anti-bullying programmes, we have to better understand what drives bullies and youth who follow them. Previous research has mainly focused on striving for high popularity at the deliberate level, but we might be overlooking other (status) motivations that impact bullying involvement to a much greater extent. In the Cool @ School - CatS project, which is funded by an ERC starting grant, you will not only examine the motivation to 'be on top', but also the motivation to 'not dangle at the bottom' in the social status hierarchy. In addition, as some youth may not be able or willing to truthfully report their popularity motivation, you will also examine motivation at the automatic level through implicit and physiological measures. These include reaction time paradigms such as an approach-avoidance task (AAT) and implicit association test (IAT), and measures of arousal such as heartbeat and electrodermal activity (skin conductance).

Assisted by a postdoctoral researcher and a research assistant, one PhD candidate will recruit and collect data at primary schools, and the other at secondary schools. Your tasks will include setting up the research, recruiting schools, testing children and youth, analysing the data, and writing scientific articles and a dissertation in English. The concepts and questions described in the project proposal leave ample room to formulate and address additional research questions.
As part of your PhD position, you will have a teaching load of 10% and the opportunity to make a start with or work on your teaching portfolio for a university teaching qualification.

You will have the opportunity to determine the specific focus of your own PhD project in consultation with the research team. Many different combinations of a focus on perpetrating or defending, explicit processes or implicit/physiological processes, and moderation of these processes by age, context or individuals' characteristics and beliefs are possible, and a proactive attitude in shaping the focus of your project will be appreciated.

The relevant ERC starting grant proposal is available from Dr Tessa Lansu.

You can get a general impression of the project by visiting the project website.


Radboud University


  • You hold a Master’s or Research Master's degree in Psychology, Educational Science, or a related field.
  • Preferably, you have some background in peer relations, bullying and/or popularity research.
  • You have good English writing skills for academic writing.
  • You are a loyal team member and are able to focus on your own interests/productivity while also supporting the team.
  • You are curious, enthusiastic and sociable.
  • You have excellent social and communication skills, especially regarding interactions with teachers, parents and youth.
  • You are able to speak Dutch at a conversational level, as responsibilities include recruiting participants and collecting data at Dutch primary and secondary schools.
  • Experience with implicit attitude and/or physiological measures such as AAT, IAT, heart rate and EDA is a plus.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: You will be employed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract).

  • It concerns an employment for 1.0 FTE.
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,770 per month based on a 38-hour working week, and will increase to €3,539 in the fourth year (salary scale P).
  • You will receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be employed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract).
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Care Services. Our Dual Career and Family Care Officer can assist you with family-related support, help your partner or spouse prepare for the local labour market, provide customized support in their search for employment and help your family settle in Nijmegen.
  • Working for us means getting extra days off. In case of full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the legally allotted 20.
Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.


The projects will be supervised by Dr Tessa Lansu (Principal Investigator), Dr Mengtian Xia (postdoctoral researcher) and Dr Chloé Tolmatcheff (Assistant Professor), all from the Social Development programme within the Behavioural Science Institute.

The Behavioural Science Institute (BSI) is a multidisciplinary research institute and one of the three research institutes of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Radboud University. Our researchers collaborate across the boundaries of psychology, pedagogical and educational sciences, and communication science. Our mission is to strengthen people through understanding the foundations of human behaviour, by creating synergy between different paradigms and by facilitating craftsmanship, curiosity and connection in academic research. BSI has seven research programmes covering three major research themes, namely human development, connection and health. BSI conducts fundamental as well as applied/translational research and has excellent facilities and support for lab and field research. Moreover, the institute is known for its successful graduate school and strong commitment to open science.

The Social Development programme conducts fundamental research with practical implications on social development across the life span. In addition to researching peer relations, our department also studies emotion regulation, trauma, ADHD, parent-infant interactions and substance use, and we teach courses on developmental psychology in the Bachelor’s programme and in the Master’s programme on mental healthcare.

Radboud University

At Radboud University, we aim to make an impact through our work. We achieve this by conducting groundbreaking research, providing high-quality education, offering excellent support, and fostering collaborations within and outside the university. In doing so, we contribute indispensably to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. To accomplish this, we need even more colleagues who, based on their expertise, are willing to search for answers. We advocate for an inclusive community and welcome employees with diverse backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. Will you also contribute to making the world a little better? You have a part to play.
If you want to learn more about working at Radboud University, follow our Instagram account and read stories from our colleagues.


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation; Education
  • Behaviour and society
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1217928



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