Professor Bram Orobio de Castro

Taking perspective: How understanding children and youth’s self-views and their views of others helps to treat aggressive behavior problems.

Aggressive and rule breaking behavior problems place a burden on children, their relatives, and society. Early intervention with parents, teachers, and children’s social cognitions has been proven effective, but effects are modest and differ markedly between children and families. To increase effectiveness of intervention it may be crucial to better understand how children and youth themselves view the social interactions that elicit their problematic behaviors.

In essence, we have learned that aggressive and rule breaking behaviors are generally surprisingly ‘logical’ behaviors from the perspectives of children who commit them, while there are important individual differences between children in the perspective they take. Some children have – through experience and temperament – developed a disposition to be overly sensitive to social threats like being rejected or treated unjustly. For these children so-called reactive aggression appears to be a logical defensive or retaliating response to perceived threats. Other children have – through conditioning, modeling, and temperament – come to feel entitled to proactively take advantage, manipulate or fight with lesser others when an opportunity to do so arises. And yet others appear to be easily manipulated into problematic behaviors because – through cognitive and emotional limitations – they do not appear to oversee the situations they are in and the consequences of their behaviors. Last but not least, many children seem to be quite accurate in feeling neglected and treated unjustly in families with multiple problems, understaffed treatment facilities, or socially unsafe school climates.

Interestingly, these strikingly different perspectives of youth seem to have clear implications for prevention and intervention tailored to children’s individual perspectives. They also seem to provide a wake-up call to involve their perspectives in improving our educational and mental health care systems.


Prof.dr. Bram Orobio de Castro (1970) is full professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. In his research, Bram focuses on the development of aggressive behavior problems in children, and how these problems can be prevented or treated most effectively. He hopes his research will lead him to find and effectively influence maintaining factors in problematic child development. With his groups, he contributed to development, evaluation, and implementation of effective interventions for children, schools, parents, and families facing adversities.

About Bram Orobio de Castro

Bram Orobio de Castro was appointed in Amsterdam in 2019 and has been a full professor of Developmental Psychology at Utrecht University since 2006. He serves as chair of the national subcommittee for the recognition of effective psychosocial interventions for children and young people (DEI) in the Netherlands. He also serves as the chair of ExtrAct, a consortium aimed at finding effective elements for the treatment of behavioural problems, as well as ‘What works against bullying?’, a consortium of five universities that researches the effects of ten promising anti-bullying programs in the Netherlands. De Castro received a ZonMW Pearl for societally relevant research for his research on effects of parent groups in deprived neighbourhoods, structural financing to support his Beter Start intervention for children of incarcerated mothers, and both Veni and Vici grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for his research into using virtual reality to better understand and treat aggressive behavior problems in young people.

Professor Bram Orobio de Castro