Research Center – Challenges Facing Children and Young People (CF-CYP); founder and director Sigrun Adalbjarnardottir,


Research projects:

  • Young People's Civic Awareness and Engagement in a Democratic Society, 2007-
  • Risk, Relationships, and Resilience: A Longitudinal Study, 1994-
  • Teachers’ Pedagogical Vision, 1992-
  • Social Development and Interpersonal Competence, 1984-
  • School Development, 1988-

Civic Awareness and Engagement in a Democratic Society

The focus of this research project is on young people’s understanding of democracy, and attitudes towards human rights, active engagement in society, and other societal issues. The focus is also on their own civic participation (political action, volunteering) and their experiences of democracy at school. By listening to their voices we are trying to better understand how young people view their society and political system, as well as how they view themselves as citizens of a democratic society. The approximately 1500 participants, aged 11, 14, and 18, live in three districts in Iceland. Both quantitative and qualitative methods are used for data collection and analysis.

Risk, Relationships, and Resilience: A Longitudinal Study

The major aim of this longitudinal study is to explore the risk-taking behaviour of young people with regard to drug abuse and education (e.g., school achievement, dropping out) in relation to various social and cultural factors (e.g., social status, family structure, gender), educational factors (e.g., parental styles, modelling), and psychological factors (e.g., self-esteem, perceived control, stress, depression, social-anxiety, and antisocial behaviour). In addition, a special focus is on adolescents' psychosocial development (knowledge/understanding, interpersonal competence, personal meaning) in relation to their risk-taking behaviour, using both quantitative and qualitative methods to collect and analyse the data. The participants in the study are adolescents who were attending 9th grade in Reykjavik in the spring of 1994 (1430 students). They have completed the same questionnaires four times (1994, 1995, 1996, 2001) and some of them have been interviewed each year. In addition,  information about their academic achievement at 10th grade (1995) and their school attendance (2005) is connected to the data. The aim is to use the results of this research in prevention and intervention work with children, adolescents, and young people, and to provide a basis for practice-based research in this area.

Socio-moral and interpersonal development

Students' Interpersonal Communicative Actions. This basic study aims at tracing developmental patterns of children's and adolescents' socio-moral and interpersonal competence. Their interpersonal competence is also viewed in relation to various psychological issues, such as social anxiety, perceived control, and social withdrawal.

Fostering Students' Interpersonal Competence and Skills. The aim of this citizenship project is to find effective ways to promote students' socio-moral and interpersonal growth. The project consists of a prevention and intervention program at school, where teachers are encouraged to work constructively with their students on socio-moral and interpersonal issues. As the intervention programs proceed, practice-based research is been conducted with a focus on the students' developmental progress in interpersonal understanding and actions as a function of their participation.

This project contributes to the task of integrating psychological theories and educational practice, which has long been an aim of educational psychologists.

Teachers' Pedagogical Vision

The aim of this project is to find effective ways to understand teachers' professional competence and development. The purpose is to help researchers, teacher-educators, and teachers themselves to analyse teachers' professional awareness. In so doing we expect to be better able to support teachers in their search for responsible and effective teaching approaches in the area of citizenship education. The project grew out of the intervention program called: Fostering Students' Interpersonal Competence and Skills. The first step was to map teachers' reflections on changes in their knowledge and understanding of students' interpersonal growth, and their own teaching skills and attitudes towards working on interpersonal issues in the classroom as they participated in the intervention program. The second step has been to postulate a theoretical model to use in analysing teachers' professional awareness by identifying the differences and similarities among teachers, as well as individual developmental patterns in their pedagogical ideas, aims, and teaching skills and styles. The third step in this process is to explore teachers' life stories in relation to their pedagogical vision, and the fourth is to explore their pedagogical vision in relation to their daily classroom activities as they work with their students. Both elementary and secondary school teachers participate in these qualitative studies.

We have also focused on teachers’ pedagogical vision as leaders in citizenship education, and have explored how teachers and principals reflect on intercultural education. The study on intercultural education was a part of a European research project, which aimed to examine the European and multicultural characteristics of teachers and their work in Greece, France, Iceland, Poland and the United Kingdom by (a) analysing European and multicultural aspects of teacher education, (b) analysing teachers’ conceptions of their own and their pupils’ identities in the European/multiethnic context, (c) identifying how teachers are prepared to deal with issues of culture, identity, racism and xenophobia in their work, and (d) identifying innovatory practice and making prospective recommendations.

Currently, we in the Group for the Study of Teacher Growth in the Humanities (GSTGH) at Harvard University are developing a measure of teacher performance that is based on our earlier model of Teacher Professional Awareness.

International Research Collaboration

  • Harvard University: The Group for the Study of Teacher Growth in the Humanities (GSTGH). Directors: Professors Robert L. Selman and Ethan Lowenstein. Project: Teacher growth – developing a measure (2010-)
  • Harvard University: The Group for the Study of Interpersonal Development (GSID). Director: Professor Robert L. Selman. Project: Psychosocial development (1988-)
  • European network: Children’s Identity and Citizenship in Europe - CiCe (1998 - present). Director: Professor Alistair Ross. Themes:  Social Political and Economic Learning and Understanding within the European Context (1999), Curricula for Citizenship in Europe: The Role of Higher Education (2000), Learning for a Democratic Europe (2001), Future Citizens in Europe (2002), A Europe of Many Cultures (2003), The Experience of Citizenship (2004), Teaching Citizenship (2005), The Citizens of Europe and the World (2006). Citizenship Education in Society (2007), Reflecting on Identities: Research, practice and innovation (2008), Human Rights and Citizenship Education  (2009), Lifelong Learning and Active Citizenship (2010)
  • Participated in developing an MA program in Citizenship Education delivered by a consortium of European universities (2004-2006)
  • European research group: Project: Teacher Education Addressing Multiculturalism – TEAM. Project: European and multicultural characteristics of teachers and their work in Greece, France, Iceland, Poland and the United Kingdom (2004-2006).

Research Grants

  • Rannis - The Icelandic Centre for Research: Icelandic Research Fund
  • Research Foundation of the University of Iceland
  • Icelandic Ministry of Culture and Education
  • Christian Millennium Fund
  • Prevention Fund
  • Tobacco Prevention Fund
  • The City of Reykjavik
  • European Commission: Socrates program