Nejra Van Zalk

Nejra Van Zalk Msc, MA, PhD, CPsychol

Nejra Van Zalk

Nejra Van Zalk
Msc, MA, PhD, CPsychol

Lecturer in Psychology

Department of Psychology, Social Work and Counselling

Faculty of Education and Health

Dr Nejra Van Zalk (née Besic) is a Lecturer in Psychology in the Department of Psychology, Social Work & Counselling at the University of Greenwich.

Nejra is a developmental psychologist focusing on social anxiety in early adolescence and the effects it has on adolescent social relationships with peers and parents. Other research interests involve the links between social anxiety and emotion regulation; the role of the fathers for the development of children's and adolescents' anxiety; the development of psychopathic traits in adolescence; and socialisation of intolerance and xenophobic attitudes in adolescence. 

Nejra has extensive research experience with longitudinal data sets, having collected and analysed longitudinal data in a number of large-scale projects.

Previously, Nejra has been affiliated with the Applied Developmental Psychology Research Group at Cambridge University, focusing on a project about social anxiety in online and offline contexts, for which she was awarded the "Junior Researcher Grant" by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research. She has also conducted research and taught at Örebro University, in Sweden, where she initially gained her PhD.

She joined the University of Greenwich in August 2016, and teaches Developmental Psychology, as well as Academic and Personal Development, and guest lectures on a number of other courses.

Posts held previously:

  • 2016-present, Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Greenwich
  • 2013-16, Visiting Scholar, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge
  • 2009-12, Lecturer and Research Fellow, Örebro University, Sweden
  • 2005-09, Research Assistant, Örebro University, Sweden
  • Course leader for Academic and Personal Development, Year 1, Psychology, BSc Hons
  • Course instructor for Developmental and Social Psychology, Year 2, Psychology, BSc Hons
  • Innovation Advisor for Department of Psychology, Social Work and Counselling
  • Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society
  • Editorial board, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

Nejra is particularly interested in the following areas of study and research:

  • Development of social anxiety in early adolescence and its effects on adolescent relationships with peers and parents
  • Understanding the role of adolescents' online and offline peer relationships in emotional adjustment and problem behaviours
  • The roles of emotion regulation and parent and peer relationships in the development of adolescent social fears
  • Selection and influence within peer networks and their impact on the development of adolescents' internalising and externalising behaviours
  • Development and socialisation of xenophobic attitudes, as well as psychopathic traits, in early adolescent peer groups.

Funded research projects

  • Co-applicant for the project "Online vs. Offline Worlds: The Role of Adolescents' Online and Offline Friendships in Emotional Adjustment and Problem Behaviors" by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (2008-2010)     
  • Co-applicant for the project "How Do Wallflowers Grow? Development of Shyness and Social Anxiety in the Adolescent Peer Context" by the Swedish Research Council (2010-2013) 
  • Main applicant for the project "Junior Researcher: Social Anxiety in Early Adolescence in Online and Offline Contexts and Consequences for Adjustment" by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (2011-2016) 
  • Co-applicant for the project "The Roles of Emotion Regulation and Parent and Peer Relationships in the Development of Adolescent Social Fears" by the Swedish Research Council (2013-2015)
  • Co-applicant for the project "An Investigation of Child-to-Parent Aggression (CPA)" by University of Greenwich Internal REF Funding (2017)
  • Principal investigator for the project "Homeless People's Experience of Social Isolation: A Test of Williams' (2001) Model of Ostracism" by University of Greenwich Internal REF Funding (2017-18)
  • Co-applicant for the project "Family relationships in 'super' face recognition ability, shyness and personality" by University of Greenwich Internal REF Funding (2017-18)

Van Zalk, N., & Van Zalk, M. (in press). Early adolescent disclosure and parental knowledge regarding online activities: Social anxiety and parental rule-setting as moderators. Current Psychology. 

Van Zalk, N., & Tillfors, M. (2017). Co-rumination moderates the link between social anxiety and depressive symptoms in early adolescence. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 11, 1-12.  

Van Zalk, N., Lamb, M. E., & Rentfrow, P. J. (2017). Does shyness vary according to attained social roles? Trends across age groups in a large British sample. Journal of Personality, 85, 830–840. 

Van Zalk, N. (2016). Social anxiety moderates the links between excessive chatting and compulsive Internet use. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 10 (3), article 3. 

Van Zalk, M. H. W., & Van Zalk, N. (2015). Violent peer influence: The roles of self-esteem and psychopathic traits. Development and Psychopathology, 27(4), 1077-1088. 

Tillfors, M., & Van Zalk, N. (2015). Easier to accelerate than to slow down: Contributions of developmental neurobiology for the understanding of adolescent social anxiety. In K. 

Ranta (Ed.), Social anxiety and phobia in adolescents: Development, manifestation and intervention strategies (pp. 71-94). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
Van Zalk, N., & Van Zalk, M. H. W. (2015). The importance of perceived support by friends and parents for adolescent social anxiety. Journal of Personality, 83(3), 346-360. 

Mörtberg, E., Tillfors, M., Van Zalk, N., & Kerr, M. (2014). An atypical anxious-impulsive pattern of social anxiety disorder in an adult clinical population. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 55(4), 350-356. 

Tillfors, M., Van Zalk, N., & Kerr, M. (2013). Investigating a socially anxious-impulsive subgroup of adolescents: A prospective community study. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 54, 267-73. 

Tillfors, M., Mörtberg, E., Van Zalk, N., & Kerr, M. (2013). Inhibited and impulsive subgroups of socially anxious young adults: Their depressive symptoms and life satisfaction. Open Journal of Psychiatry, 03, 195-201.

Van Zalk, M. H. W., Van Zalk, N., Kerr, M., & Stattin, H. (2013). Influences between online-exclusive, conjoint and offline-exclusive friendship networks: The moderating role of shyness. European Journal of Personality, 8(2), 134–146. 

Van Zalk, M. H., Kerr, M., Van Zalk, N., & Stattin, H. (2012). Xenophobia and tolerance toward immigrants in adolescence: Cross-influence processes within friendships. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41, 679-639. 

Van Zalk, N., Van Zalk, M. H. W., & Kerr, M. (2011). Socialization of social anxiety in adolescent crowds. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39, 1239-1249. 

Van Zalk, N., Van Zalk, M., Kerr, M., & Stattin, H. (2011). Social anxiety as a basis for friendship selection and socialization in adolescents' social networks. Journal of Personality, 79, 499-526.  

Van Zalk, N., Kerr, M., & Tilton-Weaver, L. C. (2011). Shyness as a moderator of the link between advanced maturity and early adolescent risk behavior. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 52, 341-353.  

Van Zalk, N., & Kerr, M. (2011). Shy adolescents' perceptions of parents' psychological control and emotional warmth: Examining bidirectional links. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 57, 375-401. 

Van Zalk, N. (2010). At first blush: The impact of shyness on early adolescents' social worlds. Berlin: Lambert Academic Publishing.
Bešić, N., & Kerr, M. (2009). Punks, Goths, and other eye-catching peer crowds: Do they fulfill a function for shy youths? Journal of Research on Adolescence, 19, 113-121. 

Muñoz, L. C., Kerr, M., & Bešić, N. (2008). The peer relationships of youths with psychopathic personality traits: A matter of perspective. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 32, 212-227.

Browse our publications database

Van Zalk, N. (2017, November). Shyness: Gender Differences and Consequences. Presentation at the University of Greenwich Equality and Diversity Event in London, UK.

Van Zalk, N., & Van Zalk, M. (2017, September). Links between Early Adolescent Social Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms: Testing the Mediational Effects of Online and Offline Victimization. Paper presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Developmental Conference in Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK.

Van Zalk, N., & Van Zalk, M. (2017, May). Adolescent Disclosure and Parental Knowledge Regarding Online Activities: Social Anxiety and Parental Control as Moderators. Paper presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Brighton, UK.

Hawk, S. T., Nelemans, S. A., Van Zalk, N., Branje, S., & Meeus, W.  (2014, March). Perceived privacy invasion and adolescent anxiety: The mediating role of emotion regulation difficulties. Paper presented at the 15th Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, Austin, USA.

Van Zalk, N., Tillfors, M., & Kerr, M. (2013, July). Does co-rumination with peers mediate the link between social anxiety and depressive symptoms in early adolescence? Paper presented at the 8th International Conference on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, Roehampton University, London, UK.

Van Zalk, N. (2013, May). The importance of perceived care and connectedness with best friends and parents for the development of social anxiety in adolescence. Poster presented at the 25th APS Annual Convention, Washington, D.C., USA. 

Van Zalk, N., Van Zalk, M., & Kerr, M. (2012, August). The importance of perceived emotional support by best friends and parents for the development of social anxiety in adolescence. Paper presented at the XIIIth Biennial Conference of the European Association for Research on Adolescence, Spetses, Greece. 

Van Zalk, N. (2012, August). Peer relationships and problem behavior: Using a social network approach to understand influence processes. Symposium organised at the XIIIth Biennial Conference of the European Association for Research on Adolescence, Spetses, Greece. 

Van Zalk, N., Tillfors, M., & Kerr, M. (2012, July). The roles of social anxiety and peer crowds in self-harming behaviors. Paper presented at the 7th International Conference on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, London, UK. 

Van Zalk, N. (2010, March). The role of parents, peers, and personality on the impact of media use on youths' emotional adjustment. Symposium organisation at the XIIIth SRA Biennial Meeting, Philadelphia, USA.

Van Zalk, N., & Kerr, M. (2010, March). Shy Punks, Goths, and other eye-catching peer crowds: Are they more prone to problem behavior than other shy youths? Oral presentation at the XIIIth SRA Biennial Meeting, Philadelphia, USA.

Van Zalk, N., Kerr, M., & Tilton-Weaver, L. (2010, March). Subjective maturity and risky behavior: Is shyness a protective factor? Oral presentation at the XIIIth SRA Biennial Meeting, Philadelphia, USA.

Van Zalk, N., Van Zalk, M., & Kerr, M. (2010, March). Shy youths chatting with friends versus strangers: Implications for emotional adjustment. Oral presentation at the XIIIth SRA Biennial Meeting, Philadelphia, USA.

Bešić, N., Selfhout, M. H. W., & Kerr, M. (2008, May). Shy youths and their friends: Shyness as a selection and influence characteristic in social networks. Oral presentation at the 11th European Conference on Research on Adolescence (EARA), Torino, Italy.

Bešić, N., & Kerr, M. (2007, December). Shyness and parenting in early adolescence. Oral presentation at Doctoral Student Workshop Selected Issues in Developmental Psychology, Örebro, Sweden.

Bešić, N., & Kerr, M. (2007, August). Directions of effects in parenting practices and youths' behavioral inhibition: Who is influencing whom? Oral presentation at the 13th European Conference on Developmental Psychology, Jena, Germany.

Bešić, N. (2006, June). Do non-mainstream clothing, makeup and hairstyles fulfill a function for certain youths? Poster presentation at the 9th International Institute on Developmental Science, Penn State, USA.

Bešić, N., & Kerr, M. (2006, May). Punks, Goths, and other eye-catching peer crowds: Do they serve a function for shy youths? Oral presentation at the Doctoral Student's Summer School, 10th European Conference on Research on Adolescence (EARA), Antalya, Turkey.

Browse our publications database