Social Anxiety and School Refusal in Adolescence


This website is no longer maintained, please visit our new website: Social Anxiety and Specific Phobia in Youth.


Prof. Michiel Westenberg


Prof. Michiel Westenberg is the head of the laboratory. He has a long lasting interest in adolescent development and, more specifically, social anxiety in adolescence. Starting from a clinical-developmental perspective, he investigated social anxiety development from a normative as well as clinical perspective. This led to the longitudinal program social anxiety in normal development in which questionnaire research was combined with lab experiment and psychophysiological recordings: the Social Anxiety and Normal Development study (SAND). In his current program, he combines these perspectives in a unique new program, focusing on the role of genes and environment in the development of social anxiety in the broadest sense. 


Dr. David Heyne

davidheyneDr. David Heyne is associate professor and he specializes in the relation between social anxiety and school refusal. When coming to Leiden, he brought his clinical and treatment experience from Australia and set up a new treatment program for school refusal in Leiden. Currently, he is interested in the development and evaluation of interventions for young people who find it hard to attend school as a result of anxiety and depression (i.e., school refusal), including intervention with the parents of these young people, and with school staff.


 Dr. Anke Blöte

annekebloteDr. Anke Blöte is assistant professor and has an interest in both laboratory based research and field observations of social anxiety. By investigating the perspectives of others on youth with social anxiety, she provides a broader context to understanding this prevalent vulnerability in adolescence. Her recent studies focus on the social skills of socially anxious adolescents and how these are evaluated by adult observers, same-aged peers and the socially anxious adolescents themselves. The different perspectives are needed in order to determine whether socially anxious adolescents’ negative self evaluations of social performance are warranted.


Dr. Caroline Bokhorst

carolienbokhorstDr. Caroline Bokhorst is assistant professor and has a strong interest in the interplay between genes and environment to understand social anxiety. For her PhD research she conducted a behavioral genetic twin study to estimate the relative influence of genetic and environmental factors on attachment relationships in infants, after which she developed an interest in social anxiety research in adolescents. Now, she is one of the first to combine these two research lines by studying the development of social anxiety using a family design. By testing three generations, she will be able to test effects of genes and environment on the emergence of social anxiety in families.


Dr. Esther van den Bos

esthervandenbosDr. Esther van den Bos is an assistant professor in the SAND team. Her current research focuses on physical and behavioral responses to social-evaluative situations (e.g. public speaking). She is interested in the normal development of behavioral, physiological and neuroendocrine responses to such situations in adolescence and specifically in their relation with puberty and socio-cognitive development. In addition, she investigates how the pattern of development may be different in adolescents with high levels of social anxiety or public speaking anxiety.


Dr. Anne Miers

annemiersDr. Anne Miers is an assistant professor in the SAND team. She completed her PhD on cognitive aspects of social anxiety, drawing from a clinical perspective. Subsequently, she longitudinally investigated the development of social anxiety over the adolescent period, and different predictors of high social anxiety levels over time. Anne is currently interested in the structure of psychopathology, particularly using network analysis, and in discovering new ways to ameliorate social anxiety and the role the peer group plays in this process.


Dr. Melle van der Molen

MellevdMolenDr. Melle J.W. van der Molen is an assistant professor in clinical neurodevelopmental psychology at the Developmental Psychology Unit. His main research interests lie in discovering the fundamental psychophysiological processes that enable attention and cognition. To this end, he investigates both healthy individuals as well as those with psychopathology (e.g., anxiety disorders) or neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., fragile X syndrome). For more information, please visit his personal website.



PhD Students

Semiha Aydin, MSc

SemihaAydin croppedSemiha Aydin studied Clinical Psychology and Health Psychology at Leiden University. During her clinical and research internship she focused on the treatment of anxiety disorders. After obtaining her master's degree, she worked in the clinical field and as a teaching assistant at the Institute of Psychology. As a PhD candidate she is interested in the timely identification and referral of youth with a social anxiety disorder. To gain insight in the presentation of social anxiety disorder in primary healthcare, she works with routine healthcare data obtained within primary healthcare as well as secondary mental healthcare. Her project is embedded within the research profile area ‘Health, Prevention and the Human Life Cycle’ in which researchers of the department of Public Health and Primary Care of the LUMC and the Leiden University Faculty of Social Sciences collaborate with clinical institutions in the nearby area.


Janna Marie Bas - Hoogendam, MSc


Janna Marie Bas - Hoogendam (MSc) has studied Medicine and Neuroscience, with a special interest to investigate the human brain using neuroimaging. She joined the Leiden Family Lab Study on Social Anxiety in March 2013 as a PhD student. Her PhD project, supervised by professor Michiel Westenberg and dr. Nic van der Wee, aims to profile endophenotypes of Social Anxiety Disorder using structural and functional MRI.



Jiemiao Chen, MSc

JiemiaoChenpicture3Jiemiao Chen obtained her master’s degree in Education from East China Normal University in July 2017. She was awarded a scholarship by the China Scholarship Counsil and started her PhD research at Leiden University in October 2017. Her PhD project, supervised by Prof. dr. P. Michiel Westenberg and Dr. Esther van den Bos, focuses on eye gaze behavior in socially anxious adolescents by using wearable eye-trackers.


Elise Kortink, MSc

EliseKortink2Elise Kortink obtained her Research Master degree in Developmental Psychology, combined with the Child- and Adolescent Psychology master, in 2017. In 2017 she also started the master Clinical Psychology, which she will finish in 2018. Elise wrote her master thesis on the effect of individual differences in personality on someone’s neural response to social evaluation, and continued this research during her internship at the Yale Child Study Centre. In September 2018, she started her PhD project, which aims to identify subgroups of people, characterized by similarities in personality, environmental and fysiological (EEG/ECG) and behavioral responses in various social contexts. These subgroups, or ‘symptom-profiles’ indicate who is at risk of developing social anxiety disorder in adolescence. In particular, Elise will investigate potential differences in a brain mechanism involved during behavioral responses to uncertain social situations and social learning. She is supervised by Prof. Dr. P. Michiel Westenberg and Dr. Melle J. W. van der Molen.

Sara Jakobsson Mansson, MSc

SaraJakobssonMansson3Sara Jakobsson Mansson obtained her master’s degree in Child and Adolescent Psychology from Leiden University August 2016, where she completed a clinical internship and wrote her thesis on a pilot study on the effects of social anxiety on eye gaze behaviour. Following graduation, she worked as a child psychologist at a private practice in The Hague, specialized in supporting expatriate families. In June 2017, she started her PhD to research interventions for children and adolescents with social anxiety supervised by professor Michiel Westenberg, dr. Esther van den Bos, and dr. Anne C. Miers.


Simone Vogelaar, MSc

SimoneVogelaarSimone did both the master Child and Adolescent Psychology and the Research Master, track Developmental Psychology, and obtained her master’s degree in December 2017. Simone wrote her master's thesis about using dynamic testing to assess the influence of strategy use on performance in children. In April 2018 Simone started her PhD project, in which she investigates the effects of educating adolescents at schools about stress, supervised by Prof. Dr. P. Michiel Westenberg, Dr. Nadira Saab, and Dr. Anne C. Miers.





Current students



Sander Buuron

Yolinda Davidse

Sanne Dijkstra

Elif Ersoy

Linda Holleman

Ilse Klinge

Tanja Kreuk

Farah Mesbahi

Jiska Mieremet

Laura Moore

Nicola Nolting

Slobodanka Peshovska

Niklas Schütter

Sophie Sweijen

Rick de Weers

Mila Williams

Sietske Yntema


Menno A.J. Ezinga, PhD

Anita Harrewijn, PhD

Marija Maric, PhD

Floor Sauter, PhD

Sindy Sumter, PhD

Lindy Wijsman, PhD


Marion van den Baar

Marjolein Barendse

Anne ter Beek

Lisanne van Berchum

Anne-Jaan den Besten

Beatrijs Bovens

Willeke Brittijn

Laura Celda

Villy Cheilakou

Marianina Choleva

Andreas Christodoulou

Laura Compier- de Block

Sinéad Craddock

Yara Daw

Evaggelia Diamanti

Jiska Dijk

Marloes van Dijk

Julia Dijkman

Corry Donner

Parthenia Dourouki

Judith Edouad

Mirte Eekhof

Eline van Enk

Amber Feher

Raluca Gatej

Claire Geers

Janet van Hal

Caroline van Hartingsveldt

Charlotte Hiemstra

Marleen Hoek

Kelly van der Hulst

Sara Jakobsson Mansson

Judith Janssen

Femke Jongejan

Marcia Kint

Eftychia Kolokonte

Pien Korsten

Elise Kortink

Styliani Kountzaki

Konstantinos Kouvaras

Madelon Kunst

Saskia van Leuverden

Sanne van Luenen

Alkistis Markoulaki

Kainah Marx

Konstantina Mataftsi

Eilidh McIver

Elise Mechielsen

Ellen Middag

Tes Mijnders

Joyce de Nijs

Dimitra Nikolakou

Deborah Noorlander

Marloes van Ooijen

Chrysavgi Papadogiannaki

Katerina Papakonstantinou

Laura Petereit

Jacky Pop

Eefje Poppelaars

Hapsari Putri

Ilona Raadgever

Etha Ravensbergen

Sara Ritter

Denise Roest

Myrto Roumelioti

Hanni Saes

Laura Sakka

Nadia van Santen

Sarah Schäffer

Lotje van Schie

Lenneke van Schoonhoven

Katharina Schulte

Irini Serafeim

Marina Sitarenios

Marjon Spies

Jacqueline Stam

Sofia Stigka

Mine Tashan

Eva Thalassinou

Niki van der Togt

Silke Tönnies

Tijmen Troost

Serif Turkkal

Evelien Urbanus

Vasiliki Vatali

Manouk Vernij

Nadine Vijlbrief

Claudia Vingerhoets

Angel Voorham

Sabina Weistra

Amber Wilson

Eleni Zachou

Carlijn Zoetmulder

Lisanne van der Zwet

Honours Bachelor

Ninke van den Berge

Tessel Dercks

Mindaugas Jurgelis

Elise Kortink

Eefje Poppelaars

Lisa Straetmans

Sophie Sweijen