Research Themes

The research area of the INVEST Research Flagship Centre covers the study fields of sociology, social policy, psychology, child psychiatry, social work, statistics, economics and epidemiology at the University of Turku and the Finnish institute for health and welfare. INVEST research is organised around six research themes headed by research area directors.

The thematic areas are not intended to be exclusive, and usually an individual study will overlap with more than one theme at a time. Each of the thematic themes is linked with interventions that already exist or are being developed.

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

Our Research Themes

Socioeconomic Inequality and wellbeing

Under this theme, our goal is to analyse the causes and consequences of changing socioeconomic inequalities (education, occupational and social status, income and earnings) and subjective wellbeing (measurable through the values and attitudes of target populations).

We evaluate the contribution of welfare state benefits, services and policies (both ex-ante and ex-post) to the changes in such differences and associations, such as those of the basic income experiment.

Research Area Director: Professor Mikko Niemelä

Intergenerational and within-family influences

Our goal is to clarify how influences between generations and the immediate family members are transmitted through social and biological pathways (e.g., social family environment or genetic inheritance), and how they can influence each other (e.g., gene-environment interactions and correlations).

Further, we study how welfare state policies contribute to these differences. Their role in intergenerational attainment is still poorly understood and surprisingly little studied.

Research Area Director: Professor Jani Erola

Social relationships and networks

Relationships with (extended) family and other significant adults, as well as peers at school, hobbies, and neighbourhoods, have numerous short- and long-term outcomes including mental health, anti- and prosocial behaviours, education, employment, and wealth. Children have unequal opportunities to form and maintain positive relationships; social inequalities can extend to the playground.

Our goal is to study the positive and negative contributions of relationships and networks to youth development, and the mechanisms by which their effects unfold.

Research area director: Professor Christina Salmivalli

Demography and life course

Our demographic landscape is changing with, e.g., growing migrant populations, increasing family instability, and the fertility decline, which accelerates already rapid population ageing, having profound impacts on societal sustainability. Demographic processes are interlinked with social and economic inequalities and well-being, and such interlinkages contribute to the accumulation of (dis)advantages across life courses and generations.

Our goal is to identify the causes and consequences of the changing demographic dynamics, and how policies can tackle the challenges involved.

Core topics

Demographic processes (population dynamics) and structures

  • Fertility and family dynamics, partnership dynamics
  • Other life-course transitions (such as entry into adulthood)
  • Migration, immigration, immigration populations, esp. children of immigrants
  • Population ageing


  • Policies relevant for population and family processes
  • Consequences of family leave use and leave reforms


  • Economic impact of family formation
  • Family structures
  • Children’s living arrangements (esp. after parental separation)
  • Child and youth well-being
  • Often: how these are modified by gender and the societal context

Research area director: Professor, Consortium Director Marika Jalovaara 

Skills and learning

Learning core citizenship skills and competencies starts in childhood and continues through adolescence, laying the foundation for life-long learning. The thematic area focuses on the interplay of psychological and societal factors that enhance or hinder successful learning and skill development of children and adolescents.

The goal is to develop and test interventions that would support the development of core citizenship skills (e.g., science literacy) that are necessary for active participation in today’s society.

Research area director: Assistant Professor Johanna Kaakinen

Health and biology

Our goal is to study health and biological processes as 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, such as short and long term consequences of Covid-19 on services and inequalities.

Research area director: Professor André Sourander