What We Do

Child, Youth, Family and Social Development (CYFSD) aims to promote human and social development through the production of high quality applied research that addresses challenges arising from social inequality, poverty, violence, HIV/AIDS and other causes of ill-health and suffering, and loss of human potential. Our studies focus on individuals, groups and institutions relating to children, youth, families and vulnerable populations, including older individuals and people with disabilities. We research aspects of the life course, from infancy to old age, with an emphasis on understanding how contexts, policies and politics shape and distribute life chances. Through our interdisciplinary approach we strive to contribute knowledge and evidence to inform the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes to achieve a better life for all South Africans.

Our Focus

We research aspects of the life course, from infancy to old age, with an emphasis on understanding how contexts, policies and politics shape and distribute life chances. Throughout the life cycle, people learn, interact and develop within families, social and cultural groups, schools, workplaces, communities, and the economic, political and social orders. Our research focuses on individuals, groups and institutions relating to children, youth, families, and vulnerable populations, including older individuals and people with disabilities.

Thematic Research Areas

  • Early childhood:  This theme focuses on the economic, educational, biological, psychological and social data that demonstrate the importance of early childhood to both personal and national development. Studies are conducted on nutrition, early child care, vulnerability associated with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and indicators of early child development.
  • Youth development:  CYFSD's research on youth development provides the evidence-base for an integrated and coherent response to the needs of young people through policies and programmes. Studies are conducted on the resources and assets of youth, including their demographic presence, capacity to cope with rapid change, their openness to the future, as well as the challenges facing them. These include quality work-oriented education, employment, civic participation, and health and well-being.
  • Family studies:  Families are the fundamental building block for positive human development and the principal safety net for people facing chronic and acute challenges; they are also the repository of social values, livelihoods, and legacy. The work of CYFSD focuses on work-family combinations for both men and women, care and caregiving including interactions between services and home care, the role of men in families and patterns of fathering, and intergenerational relations in families.
  • HIV/AIDS: CYFSD's work that falls under this theme focuses on the causes and consequences of HIV/AIDS for children, youth, families and communities. This includes preventing HIV infection among children, youth and families; mitigating the effects of HIV infection on these groups; and addressing social and economic factors that increase the vulnerability of children, youth and families to HIV and AIDS and their impact (Dr Heidi van Rooyen).
  • Health and well-being: There are four key sub-areas under this theme - substance abuse, maltreatment and abuse, mental health, and crime and violence. Research in this theme area aims to promote well-being through interventions in policy programmes, community and services  and through identifying opportunities for the promotion of well-being and protection, and the elimination of risk.
  • Social protection: This theme is a multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary response by the state, in collaboration with civil society, to ensure a minimum standard of well-being for all citizens, especially protection them from risk, vulnerability and deprivation. The interventions falling under a social protection framework include social security, the social wage and income security. CYFSD adopts a strong developmental focus, emphasising the access of vulnerable groups to work, health services, quality education, welfare, and social justice.

Our national and international collaborations / partnerships

While CYFSD conducts most of its research in South Africa, the programme extends its reach through an extensive network of long-standing national, regional, and international collaborators. Researchers in the programme also act as consultants to a number of national and international organisations.

Some key funders and implementing networks

The work of the programme is supported by various local, regional and intenational partners including local and foreign government departments, foundations and civil society organisations, continental bodies, UN organisations and international funding agencies.

Key publications

Below is a list of key, high-impact publications in which CYFSD has published:

  • JAMA
  • Lancet
  • AIDS Care
  • American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
  • British Journal of Psychiatry
  • Social Science and Medicine
  • Journal of Adolescence
  • Harvard Health Policy Review
  • Science
  • Journal of Health Psychology
  • Journal of Ethnicity and Diseases
  • American Journal of Orthopsychology
  • Journal of Comparative Family Studies
  • Substance Use and Misuse
  • British Medical Journal

Brochure

Download the Child, Youth, Family and Social Development brochure.