PhD defence M. (Marije) van Dalen

Living with a Visible Difference: Putting Together the Pieces of a Puzzle

Prof.dr. E.M.W.J. Utens


Prof.dr. M.H.J. Hillegers


Dr. J.M.E. Okkerse

Tuesday 18 Jan 2022, 15:30 - 17:00
PhD defence
Professor Andries Querido room
Education Center
Erasmus MC
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On 18 January 2022, M. van Dalen will defend her PhD dissertation, entitled: ‘Living with a Visible Difference: Putting Together the Pieces of a Puzzle’.

A visible difference (i.e., a cleft lip, port-wine stain or eczema) in the face or on the body occurs in 1 in every 44 persons. It is estimated that a third of this group experience negative psychological outcomes.

In this thesis we studied whether Young People (YP) Face IT, an online eHealth program for adolescents (12-18 years old) with a visible difference, improves psychological well-being. YP Face IT has eight sessions of half an hour. In these sessions, adolescents learn how to deal with difficult social situations and learn how to reframe difficult thoughts into more positive thoughts. They learn techniques through social skills training and cognitive behavioural therapy. They can complete the program at home.

Adolescents who completed YP Face IT appreciate the program and would all recommend it to other adolescents with a visible difference and appearance-related distress. An international study with Norway showed that adolescents that completed YP Face IT reported less social anxiety than adolescents that did not complete the program. 

This thesis also examined the psychological well-being of children and adolescents with a visible difference, and their parents. Children with a visible difference under the age of 12 show less emotional- and behavioural problems than unaffected peers. Adolescents with a visible difference aged 12 to 18 years old experience more symptoms of anxiety than unaffected peers. 

Research on parents of children with a visible difference aged 12 and younger shows that they experience less stress and better psychological well-being than other parents.

The PhD defences will not take place publicly in the usual way. A live stream link has been provided to candidate. The ceremony will begin exactly at 15:30.

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