YC_ElsjeVanBergen 8929 boven

Dr Elsje van Bergen

Psychological Scientist


I am Elsje van Bergen, and I am an Associate Professor at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam, where I lead a team of early-career researchers in the field of educational genetics. Our interdisciplinary research focuses on understanding the causes and consequences of individual differences in learning, particularly the interplay between genetic and environmental factors on skills such as reading. You can hear more in my 1-minute YouTube introduction.

I was recently awarded an ERC Starting Grant and VIDI Talent Grant to study the intergenerational cycle of educational achievement. Poor educational outcomes often persist within families, creating a cycle of inequality. We know that children whose parents talk and read less to them tend to struggle in school, but it’s not clear whether this association is due to a causal effect of parenting or to shared genetics. My research aims to better understand the underlying mechanisms of this familial educational disadvantage to inform how we can intervene to ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn and thrive.

At the VU Amsterdam, I work at the department of Biological Psychology, where we run the Netherlands Twin Register. I’m also affiliated to LEARN! and Amsterdam Public Health. I have a PhD in educational sciences from the University of Amsterdam, and have previously held postdoctoral research fellowships in developmental psychology at the University of Oxford.

I am an Amsterdam Young Academy fellow and a Jacobs Foundation Research Fellow, and I serve on the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Dyslexia Association. I have received several early career awards, including the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences. 

In my personal life, my husband and I have two young children and I enjoy practising acrobatics, yoga, and pole sport.

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Job Opportunities

I’m hiring! Please see these PhD and Postdoc adverts, funded by my ERC, VIDI, and consortium grants.

  1. phd-position-gene-environment-interplay-in-children-s-educational-development-amsterdam 
  2. postdoc-in-gene-environment-interplay-in-children-s-educational-development-amsterdam
  3. phd-position-in-behaviour-genetic-modelling-of-autism-and-motor-difficulties-amsterdam

At the MPI for Psycholinguistics, we have a vacancy for a postdoctoral fellow and/or a PhD student (both for 4 years) on intergenerational transmission of language skills. 


In addition, promising early-career researchers interested in working with me are welcome to contact me; please include a CV. There are also several fellowships that you may be eligible for, including the Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship (for those currently based outside the Netherlands), Hestia (for academic refugees in the Netherlands), and Veni (for those who have received their PhD within the last 3 years). Additionally, your current country of residence may offer fellowships as well.

Personal Story

If you’re interested in hearing about my journey to tenure, including the challenges and setbacks I faced along the way, you can check out this interview in English or in Dutch (original). It provides a frank and sincere portrayal of my experiences as a researcher.


The list below may not be up to date. This one is: Google Scholar.

Abbondanza, F., Dale, P., …, van Bergen, E., …, Bishop, D.V.M., Paracchini, S. (2022). Non-right handedness is associated with language and reading impairments. PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/74jsd

Douw, L., Mellink, B., Noordenbos, B., van Bergen, E., Araujo, T., Sergeeva, A.V., Anastasia V., Fokkens, A., & Wijkman, M.D.S. (2022). Interdisciplinarity beyond the buzzword: A guide to academic work across disciplines. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.6341545

Linzarini, A., Bugden, S., Merkley, Gaab, N., R., … van Bergen, E., and Williams, W.H. (2022). ‘Identifying and supporting children with learning disabilities’ in Bugden, S. and Borst, G. (eds.) Education and the Learning Experience in Reimagining Education: The International Science and Evidence based Education Assessment [Duraiappah, A.K., Atteveldt, N.M. van et al. (eds.)]. New Delhi: UNESCO MGIEP. In Press.

Doust, C., Fontanillas, P., Eising, E., Gordon, S. D., Wang, Z., Alagöz, G., … & Quantitative Trait Working Group of the GenLang Consortium. (accepted). Discovery of 42 genome-wide significant loci associated with dyslexia. Nature Genetics. Preprint DOI: 10.1101/2021.08.20.21262334

de Wit, M.M., Begeer, S., Nivard, M.G., & van Bergen, E. (2022). The effects of siblings and twin testosterone transfer on autistic traits. JCPP Advances, 2(1), e12069. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcv2.12069 (Previously appeared in preprint form, 10.31219/osf.io/hbnys)

Eising, E., …, van Bergen, E., Whitehouse, A.J.O., Willcutt, E.G., St Pourcain, B., Francks, C., & Fisher, S.E. (2021). Genome-wide association analyses of individual differences in quantitatively assessed reading- and language-related skills in up to 34,000 people. bioRxiv. DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.04.466897

Alrouh, H., van Bergen, E., de Zeeuw, E.L., Dolan, C.V., & Boomsma, D.I. (2022). Intergenerational transmission of body mass index and associations with educational attainment. BMC Public Health, 22, 890. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-13270-1 (Previously appeared in preprint form, 10.21203/rs.3.rs-1048047/v1)

van Bergen, E., Hart, S. A., Latvala, A., Vuoksimaa, E., Tolvanen, A., & Torppa, M. (2022). Literacy skills seem to fuel literacy enjoyment, rather than vice versa. PsyArXiv. DOI: 10.31234/osf.io/3kfgd

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., Eilertsen, E.M., 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. (2021). Estimating effects of parents’ cognitive and non-cognitive skills on offspring education using polygenic scores. BioRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.09.15.296236 

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. (2021). Prevention of reading difficulties in children with and without familial risk: Short and long term effects of an early intervention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 113(2), 248–267DOI: 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. (2021). Effect of parental age on offspring’s neurodevelopment. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 50(5), 632-644. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2020.1756298 [pdf]

van Bergen, E., Vasalampi, K., & Torppa, M. (2021). Why are practice and performance related? Development of reading from age 5 to 15. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(3), 415-434. 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

Daucourt, M. C., Haughbrook, R., van Bergen, E., & Hart, S. A. (2020). The association of parent-reported executive functioning, reading, and math is explained by nature, not nurture. Developmental Psychology, 56(12), 2246–2261. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0001126 [pdf]

Erbeli, F., van Bergen, E., & Hart, S.A. (2020). Unraveling the relation between reading comprehension and print exposure. Child Development, 91(5), 1548-1562. 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. (2019). 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

    Assitant –> Associate Professor

    As an Associate Professor at the Department of Biological Psychology, I am fortunate to contribute to and have access to the resources and expertise of the Netherlands Twin Register. Previously, I was funded as Assitant Professor by an NWO Veni Early Career Fellowship (2016-2020). In addition, I am a member of Oriel College at the University of Oxford and have ongoing grants for research on science communication, intergenerational transmission, and learning difficulties. I am dedicated to advancing our understanding of these important topics and making a positive impact in the field.

  • 2012 - 2017

    University of Oxford

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    I completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Oxford in the Department of Experimental Psychology, where I worked in Professor Bishop‘s lab. My fellowship was funded by an NWO Rubicon Fellowship and a Junior Research Fellowship from Oriel College, both of which ran from 2012-2015. I remained affiliated with Oxford as a Visiting Academic for an additional two years.

  • 2008 - 2012

    University of Amsterdam

    PhD Student

    I conducted research at the University of Amsterdam’s Research Institute of Child Development and Education, where I was supervised by Professors de Jong, Oort and van der Leij. In 2013, I successfully defended my thesis, entitled “Who will develop dyslexia? Cognitive precursors in parents and children”.

  • before 2008

    Amsterdam & Aberdeen

    I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Human Movement Sciences from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, with a focus on learning and development of movement coordination. Both degrees were awarded cum laude. During and after my studies, I worked as a teaching and research assistant. As part of my Master’s program, I completed a 6-month internship at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, where I conducted research on reach-to-grasp movements in Professor Mon-William‘s lab.


I specialize in teaching research methods, career development, and academic writing. My current teaching responsibilities include:


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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