Denmark invests billions in initiatives and schemes for children and young people every year. These efforts are intended to provide children and young people with safe conditions in which to grow, develop and prepare for adulthood. But do they work? And are the resources being used effectively? We do not know enough about these issues, and that is precisely why the TrygFonden foundation has taken the initiative to establish a centre to research the field of well-being among children and young people.
"There are a great many children in Denmark who have a difficult childhood, who learn little at school, who fail to complete an education, and who - as adults - find it very hard to provide for themselves and/or establish a functional family. We in Denmark invest billions in attempts to prevent and deal with issues in these areas every year - heavily outspending other countries with which we normally compare ourselves - but we still fail to achieve our goals. To put it mildly, the results are indifferent," says Merete Konnerup, Senior Consultant at TrygFonden.
Plenty of will - but knowledge is lacking
Professor Michael Rosholm from Aarhus University is to head up the pioneering research centre. Over the coming six years, he will be joining forces with a range of partners to carry out research targeted at different ages, development phases and skills from children of daycare age to young people in higher secondary education and at the start of their working lives. The first research projects are scheduled for launch in 2013.
"There can be no doubt that we need to take a more systematic approach to the initiatives currently being applied in the area of children and young people. In particular, we need to raise the bar with regard to how we evaluate the input. There is no shortage of will to improve schools and institutions, for example, to ensure that they provide better support for the academic and social skills of children and young people, and great efforts are being made all over the country every single day. The problem is that - due to a lack of knowledge about what actually works - the resources are often spent on inefficient initiatives, while programmes that have a much greater effect are not being made available to relevant players. In other words, we are not learning from either our failures or our successes," says Michael Rosholm. He continues:
"We will be starting out by thoroughly evaluating a limited number of projects, and will then progressively work our way out to broader areas. In this way, we hope that we can contribute to changing the knowledge culture and to developing the area so that we can base future initiatives on more reliable knowledge."
A great many exciting projects are being launched in the field of children and young people, and Merete Konnerup is convinced that there is much to be gained from applying a more systematic approach.
"If we become better at assessing effect in the field of children and young people in Denmark, we can improve child welfare and boost both skills and happiness among children," she says.
Research attracting international attention
The Danish researchers will be joined by a number of international colleagues, including James J. Heckman, Nobel laureate, Professor at the University of Chicago and one of the world's leading experts in measuring the effect of social initiatives. He sees great potential in the Danish research into effect.
"The research centre is a promising initiative that is sure to contribute knowledge and help the Danes to prioritise their efforts better. The initiative will also benefit the rest of the world. Setting up a centre to work seriously with research-based evaluation of many different initiatives is a really good idea," he says.
The enclosed fact sheet presents an overview of the ten projects that the TrygFonden centre for research into well-being among children and young people will be working on.
Read more about the TrygFonden centre for research into well-being among children and young people at trygfonden.dk
The ten research projects at Aarhus University into well-being among children and young people
Economic Evaluations and Cross-Study Comparability
Project Manager: Michael Rosholm, Aarhus University
School Readiness in Young Danish Children: Does an Intervention in Nurseries Improve Short and Long-Term Outcomes?
Project Manager: Dorthe Bleses, University of Southern Denmark
The Incredible Years. Developing socioeconomically disadvantaged children at key developmental stages
Project Manager: Marianne Simonsen, Aarhus University
Follow-Up on Early Childhood Intervention: A Double-Randomized Field
Trial of a Two-Stage Investment in Parental Childcare
Project Manager: Simon Calmar Andersen, Aarhus University
School-Wide Positive Behavior Support
Project Manager: Sarah van Mastrigt, Aarhus University
School Absenteeism. Risk factors and Intervention
Project Manager: Mikael Thastum, Aarhus University
Spare Time Jobs for Socially Disadvantaged Youth
Project Manager: Anna Piil Damm, Aarhus University
Dropout and Self-Control Problems in Youth
Project Manager: Helena Skyt Nielsen, Aarhus University
Improving Outcomes for Children in Disadvantaged Families by More Intensive Counseling
Project Manager: Lars Skipper, Aarhus University
Mentoring Disadvantaged Youth
Project Manager: Michael Svarer, Aarhus University