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Welfare Research and Innovation Ecosystem

The research area of the INVEST Flagship covers the study fields of sociology, social policy, psychology and child psychiatry at the University of Turku and the Finnish institute for health and welfare. The INVEST ecosystem brings together the efforts of 200 researchers and advances cross-disciplinary research. We also engage public organisations, third sector organisations, companies, families and adolescents to our operations, thus fostering also transdisciplinary approaches.

INVEST research is organised around three overlapping stages: 1) we identify the current and emerging social inequalities leading to gaps in wellbeing and skill development of the children and youth in different family and other social environments; 2) we study of the role of welfares state and other social institutions in not only compensating, but sometimes also creating or magnifying such gaps; and 3) we design, test and implement universal and targeted, evidence-based interventions in order to fill those gaps. In particular, our research has focuses on disadvantages and negative transitions during the early life-course.

Currently, we have 40 on-going projects and our research groups are directed by 24 principal investigators. INVEST researchers are listed here

Our welfare ecosystem enables us to collaborate and interact efficiently with the key stakeholder organisations, policy makers and various practitioners that work with us in our mission. The transdisciplinary approach works towards the desired short- and mid-term societal outcomes and long-term societal impacts through various pathways and means. Currently, we collaborate with various research organisations, companies and public administrative and civil society actors. In addition to these, we collaborate with over 900 Finnish schools and over 100 municipalities.


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Our Thematic Research Areas:

Socioeconomic differences and wellbeing

The thematic area covers research interested in typical socioeconomic outcomes of interest in social research: education, occupational and social status, and income and earnings.

Depending on the research question covered, these outcomes may refer to both absolute as well as relative differences (e.g. income in local currency vs. relative income poverty). Each of these topics can be considered as an objective indicator of wellbeing. Additionally, we also consider the subjective aspects of it, measurable through the values and attitudes of target populations.

Research Area Director: Professor Mikko Niemelä

Intergenerational and within-family influences

The research that is conducted under this theme refers to any kind of transmissions or influences taking place between generations and between the immediate family members.

These influences can be transmitted through either social or biological pathways (e.g. social family environment or genetic inheritance), or most often, in the form of their interplay. While some of the considered transmissions can take place without a specific effort of having an impact on children (e.g. genetic endowment or being exposed to a specific type of environment), in other cases parents make an effort of having such an impact deliberately (investments).

Research Area Director: Professor Jani Erola

Social relationships and networks

Social interaction that is consequential to the short and long-term outcomes of the children and youth, extends to the broader family networks, peers at schools and hobbies as well as neighbourhoods.

Some of these networks are maintained by the children and youth, but in other cases, they rely on the important adults in their lives, e.g. parents, relatives or teachers. The networks and relationships can provide valuable social capital, but can equally well be harmful, like in the case of bullying.

Research area director: Professor Christina Salmivalli

Demography and life-course

The thematic area covers the key societal demographic processes, such as fertility and family dynamics, migration and mortality. These processes are overlapping and intertwined with the different phases of the life course.

While the flagship focuses on the life course stages of childhood, youth and early adulthood, also the later phases of it need to be covered to fully understand the role of earlier stages. These processes are often seen as a consequence of social inequalities (such as labour market uncertainties reducing fertility), but can sometimes be considered as indicators of social inequalities themselves (e.g. never partnering or childlessness).

Research area director: Academy Research Fellow Marika Jalovaara 

Skills and learning

These processes are typically taking place during childhood and youth; the factors limiting or enhancing them include both socioeconomic and demographic differences in the growth environment as well as the differences in innate abilities.

We pay attention to both formal and informal types of learning (e.g. learning within the educational system or according to a model set by others, such as parents, peers or siblings).

Research area director: Adjunct Professor Johanna Kaakinen

Health and biology

We consider health and biological processes as being their independent sources and outcomes of inequalities. However, more often they are deeply intertwined with sociodemographic processes, in a manner that makes it almost impossible to separate the types of processes from each other.

We focus in particular on mental health and include also the important roles of other health-related issues.

Research area director: Professor André Sourander

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