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Dr Elsje van Bergen

Psychological Scientist


Together with my team of early-career researchers, I study causes and consequences of individual differences in learning. In my research efforts, I integrate theories and methods from psychology, education, and genetics to study educational achievement and difficulties. For example, I study the interplay between genetic and environmental influences on educational skills like reading. Here’s my 1-minute introduction.

I am Associate Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (at Biological Psychology, the Netherlands Twin Register, and LEARN!). Before taking up this position I was a postdoctoral research fellow in developmental psychology at the University of Oxford. I did my PhD in educational sciences at the University of Amsterdam.

I am honoured to be a member of the Amsterdam Young Academy. and to serve as co-chair on the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Dyslexia Association

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Job Opportunities

At the moment we do not have open positions in the field of language, literacy, and numeracy. However, promising young researchers who would like to work with me can always contact me. Possible postdoc fellowships for which you may be eligible include Marie Curie Individual Fellowship (for those currently based outside the Netherlands), Hestia (for academic refugees in the Netherlands) and Veni (for those <3 years out of PhD). The country where you are currently based may also offer fellowships.

Personal Story

If you’re interested in my many failures and setbacks on my road to tenure, I refer you to this interview: in English or in Dutch (original).


For links or additional pdf’s of my papers, please visit Google Scholar or ResearchGate.

Tamimy, Z., Kevenaar, S.T., Hottenga, J.J., Hunter, M.D., de Zeeuw, E.L., Neale, M.C., van Beijsterveldt, C.E.M., Dolan, C.V., van Bergen, E., & Boomsma, D. I. (2021). Multilevel twin models: geographical region as a third level variable. Behavior Genetics, 51(3), 319-330. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10519-021-10047-x (Previously appeared in preprint form, https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.11.11.377820) [pdf]

Hart, S.A., Little, C., & van Bergen, E. (2021). Nurture might be nature: Cautionary tales and proposed solutions. npj Science of Learning, 6(2). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41539-020-00079-z (Previously appeared in preprint form, https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/j5x7g[pdf]

Demange, P.A., Hottenga, J.J., Abdellaoui, A., Malanchini, M., Domingue, B.W., de Zeeuw, E.L., Rimfeld, K., Eley, T., Boomsma, D.I., van Bergen, E., Breen, G., Nivard, M.G., Cheesman, R. (2020). Parental influences on offspring education: indirect genetic effects of non-cognitive skills. BioRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.09.15.296236

Daucourt, M. C., Haughbrook, R., van Bergen, E., & Hart, S. A. (in press). The association of parent-reported executive functioning, reading, and math is explained by nature, not nurture. Developmental Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0001126 [pdf]

Demange, P.A., Malanchini, M., …, van Bergen, E., …, Belsky, D. W., Harden, K. P., & Nivard, M. G. (2021). Investigating the genetic architecture of non-cognitive skills using GWAS-by-subtraction. Nature Genetics, 53, 35-44. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41588-020-00754-2 (Previously appeared in preprint form, https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.01.14.905794)

Zijlstra, A.H., van Bergen, E., Regtvoort, A., de Jong, P.F., & van der Leij, A. (in press). Prevention of reading difficulties in children with and without familial risk: Short and long term effects of an early intervention. Journal of Educational Psychology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000489 [pdf]

Veldkamp, S.A.M., Zondervan-Zwijnenburg, M.A.J., van Bergen, E., Barzeva, S.A., Tamayo Martinez, N., Becht, A.I., van Beijsterveldt, C.E.M., Meeus, W., Branje, S., Hillegers, M.H.J., Oldehinkel, A.J., Hoijtink, H.J.A., Boomsma, D.I., & Hartman, C. (in press). Effect of parental age on offspring’s neurodevelopment. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2020.1756298 [pdf]

van Bergen, E., Vasalampi, K., & Torppa, M. (in press). Why are practice and performance related? Development of reading from age 5 to 15. Reading Research Quarterly. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.309 [pdf]

de Zeeuw, E.L., Hottenga, J-J., Ouwens, K.G., Dolan, C.V., Ehli, E.A., Davies, G.E., Boomsma, D.I., & van Bergen, E. (2020). Intergenerational transmission of education and ADHD: Effects of parental genotypes. Biohavior Genetics, 50, 221–232. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10519-020-09992-w[pdf]
(Previously appeared in preprint form: https://doi.org/10.1101/664128

Erbeli, F., van Bergen, E., & Hart, S.A. (in press). Unraveling the relation between reading comprehension and print exposure. Child Development. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13339 [pdf]

Vanbinst, K., van Bergen, E., Ghesquière, P., & De Smedt, B. (2020). Understanding risk factors of comorbidity: shared cognitive correlates of reading and arithmetic in kindergartners. Early Childhood Research Quarterly , 51, 144-152. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2019.10.009 [pdf]

Ligthart et al. (in press). The Netherlands Twin Register: Longitudinal research based on twin and twin-family designs. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 22, 623–636. doi: 10.1017/thg.2019.93 [pdf]

Veldkamp, S.A.M., Boomsma, D.I., de Zeeuw, E.L., van Beijsterveldt, C.E.M., Bartels, M., Dolan, C.V., & van Bergen, E. (2019). Genetic and environmental influences on different forms of bullying perpetration, bullying victimization, and their co-occurrence. Behaviour Genetics, 49(5), 432-443. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10519-019-09968-5 

van Bergen, E., Snowling, M.J., de Zeeuw, E.L., van Beijsterveldt, C.E.M., Dolan, C.V. & Boomsma, D.I. (2018). Why do children read more? The influence of reading ability on voluntary reading practices. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 59(11), 1205-1214. DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12910  [pdf]

de Jong, P.F. & van Bergen, E. (2017). Issues in diagnosing dyslexia. In E. Segers & P.W. van den Broek, Developmental Perspectives in Written Language and Literacy. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/z.206.21dej [pdf]

van Bergen, E., van Zuijen, T.L., Bishop, D.V.M., & de Jong, P.F. (2017). Why are home-literacy environment and children’s reading skills associated? What parental skills reveal. Reading Research Quarterly, 52(2), 147-160. DOI: 10.1002/rrq.160 [pdf]

Veldkamp, S., van Bergen, E., de Zeeuw, E., van Beijsterveldt, C., Boomsma, D.I., & Bartels, M. (2017). Bullying and victimization in twins: the effect of classroom sharing and other twin-specific factors. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 20(1), 19-27. DOI: doi.org/10.1017/thg.2016.99. [pdf]

Swagerman, S.C., van Bergen, E., Dolan, C., de Geus, E.J.C., Koenis, M.M.G., Hulshoff Pol, H.E., Boomsma, D.I. (2017). Genetic transmission of reading ability. Brain & Language, 172, 3-8. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2015.07.008 [pdf]

CarrionCastillo, A., van Bergen, E., Vino, A., van Zuijen, T.L., de Jong, P.F., Francks, C., Fisher, S.E. (2016). Evaluation of results from genome-wide studies of language and reading in a novel independent dataset. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 15(6), 531-541. DOI: 10.1111/gbb.12299

Swagerman, S.C., van Bergen, E., Kan, K., Koenis, M.M.G., Hulshoff Pol, H.E., Boomsma, D.I., & de Geus, E.J.C., (2016). No evidence of causal effects of blood pressure on cognition in the population at large. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 19(1), 17-26. DOI: 10.1017/thg.2015.99 [pdf]

Swagerman, S.C., de Geus, E.J.C., Kan, K., van Bergen, E., Nieuwboer, H.A., Koenis, M.M.G., Hulshoff Pol, H.E., Gur, R.E., Gur, R.C., Boomsma, D.I. (2016). The Computerized Neurocognitive Battery: Validation, aging effects, and heritability across cognitive domains. Neuropsychology, 30(1), 53-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/neu0000248 [pdf]

van Bergen, E., Bishop, D.V.M., van Zuijen, T.L., & de Jong, P.F. (2015). How does parental reading influence children’s reading? A study of cognitive mediation. Scientific Studies of Reading, 19(5), 325-339. DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2015.1050103 [pdf]

van den Boer, M., van Bergen, E., & de Jong, P.F. (2015). The specific relation of visual attention span with reading and spelling in Dutch. Learning and Individual Differences, 39, 141-149. DOI: 10.1016/j.lindif.2015.03.017

Torppa, M., Eklund, K., van Bergen, E., & Lyytinen, H. (2015). Late emerging and resolving dyslexia: A follow-up study from age 3 to 14. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43(7), 1389-1401. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-015-0003-1

van Bergen, E., van der Leij, A, & de Jong, P.F. (2014). The intergenerational multiple deficit model and the case of dyslexia. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8 (346). DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00346 [pdf]

van den Boer, M., van Bergen, E., & de Jong, P.F. (2014). Underlying skills of oral and silent reading. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 128, 138-151. DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2014.07.008

van Bergen, E., de Jong, P.F., Maassen, B., & van der Leij, A. (2014). The effect of parents’ literacy skills and children’s preliteracy skills on the risk of dyslexia. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 42(7), 1187-1200. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-014-9858-9

van Bergen, E., de Jong, P.F., Maassen, B., Krikhaar, E., Plakas, A., & van der Leij, A. (2014). IQ of four-year-olds who go on to develop dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 47(5), 475-484. DOI: 10.1177/0022219413479673

van der Leij, A., van Bergen, E., van Zuijen, T., de Jong, P.F, Maurits, N., & Maassen, B. (2013). Precursors of developmental dyslexia. An overview of the longitudinal Dutch Dyslexia Programme study. Dyslexia, 19, 191-213. DOI: 10.1002/dys.1463

Litt, R.A., de Jong, P.F., van Bergen, E., & Nation, K. (2013). Dissociating crossmodal and verbal demands in paired associate learning (PAL): What drives the PAL-reading relationship? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 115(1), 137-149. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2012.11.012

van Bergen, E. (2013). Who will develop dyslexia? Cognitive precursors in parents and children (Doctoral thesis, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands). http://dare.uva.nl/record/437709

van der Leij, A., van Bergen, E., & de Jong, P.F (2013). Longitudinal family-risk studies of dyslexia: Why some children develop dyslexia and others don’t. In A. Fawcett & K. Saunders (Eds.), British Dyslexia Association Handbook 2013. Bracknell: British Dyslexia Association.

van Bergen, E., de Jong, P.F., Plakas, A., Maassen, B., & van der Leij, A. (2012). Child and parental literacy levels within families with a history of dyslexia. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53(1), 28-36. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2011.02418.x

Torppa, M., Eklund, K., van Bergen, E., & Lyytinen, H. (2011). Parental literacy predicts children’s literacy: A longitudinal family-risk study. Dyslexia, 17(4), 339-355. DOI: 10.1002/dys.437

van Bergen, E., de Jong, P.F., Regtvoort, A., Oort, F., S. van Otterloo, & van der Leij, A. (2011). Dutch children at family risk of dyslexia: Precursors, reading development, and parental effects. Dyslexia, 17(1), 2-18. DOI: 10.1002/dys.423

van Swieten, L.M., van Bergen, E., Williams, J.H.G., Wilson, A.D., Plumb, M.S., Kent, S.W., & Mon-Williams, M.A. (2010). A test of motor (not executive) planning in developmental coordination disorder and autism. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36(2), 493-499. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0017177

van Bergen, E., van Swieten, L.M., Williams, J.H.G., & Mon-Williams, M. (2007). The effect of orientation on prehension movement time. Experimental Brain Research, 178(2), 180-193. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-006-0722-1

In Dutch:

van Westerloo, A. (2017). ‘Duizend genen zijn betrokken bij leesvaardigheid’; Interview with Elsje van Bergen. Balans Magazine, November Issue, 24-27. [pdf]

van Bergen, E. (2016). Familiair- en erfelijkheidsonderzoek naar dyslexie. In Van den Broeck, W. (Ed.). Handboek dyslexieonderzoek. Wetenschappelijke inzichten in de diagnostiek, oorzaken, preventie en behandeling van dyslexie. Leuven: Acco. [pdf]

Career Path

  • 2015 - Present

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

    Assistant Professor
    I work at the Dept. of Biological Psychology, which hosts the Netherlands Twin Register. Until recently I was funded by an NWO Veni Early Career Fellowship (2016-2020).  In addition, I am a member of Oriel College, University of Oxford. I have ongoing grants on the topics science communication, intergenerational transmission, and learning difficulties.

  • 2012 - 2017

    University of Oxford

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    I did my postdoc at the University of Oxford, dept. of Experimental Psychology, in Professor Bishop‘s lab. I was funded by an NWO Rubicon Fellowship and a Junior Research Fellowship from Oriel College (both 2012-2015). I stayed on for another two years as Visiting Academic.

  • 2008 - 2012

    University of Amsterdam

    PhD Student
    I conducted my PhD research at the University of Amsterdam, Research Institute of Child Development and Education, supervised by Professor de Jong and Professor van der Leij. In 2013 I defended my thesis, called “Who will develop dyslexia? Cognitive precursors in parents and children”.

  • before 2008

    Amsterdam & Aberdeen

    I obtained a Bachelor and Master (both cum laude) in Human Movement Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, specialising in learning and development of movement coordination. During and after my BSc and MSc I worked as a teaching- and research-assistant. My MSc included a 6-month internship at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where I studied reach-to-grasp movements in Professor Mon-William‘s lab.


I mostly teach research methods and statistics, career development, and academic writing. My current teaching includes:


Linked In



Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Biological Psychology
Van der Boechorststraat 7
1081 BT Amsterdam
the Netherlands

           e.van.bergen vu.nl

+31 20 5988944

Medical Sciences building, office H-565