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Nikola Balvin

Former Specialist (Former title)

Nikola Balvin has a background in psychology and peace-building. She has held the position of Knowledge Management Specialist at UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti since 2013. In this role she develops methodological tools, research procedures and guidelines to facilitate quality research in UNICEF. Prior to that she was a Research Officer on UNICEF’s flagship publication 'The State of the World's Children' at the New York headquarters. Before joining UNICEF Nikola was an Associate Lecturer at the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (ACPACS) at the University of Queensland and managed the International Conflict Resolution Centre at the University of Melbourne. Nikola completed her Doctor of Psychology at the University of Melbourne in 2007, examining prejudice and stereotyping towards Australia’s Indigenous peoples.
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In 2016, UNICEF hosted The Adolescent Brain: A second window of opportunity, a symposium that brought together experts in adolescent neuroscience to discuss this emerging science and how we can apply it to support all adolescents – but especially those already facing risks to their well-being, including poverty, deprivation, conflict and crisis. The articles in this compendium elaborate on some of the ideas shared at the symposium. Together, they provide a broad view of the dynamic interactions among physical, sexual and brain development that take place during adolescence. They highlight some of the risks to optimal development – including toxic stress, which can interfere with the formation of brain connections, and other vulnerabilities unique to the onset of puberty and independence. They also point to the opportunities for developing interventions that can build on earlier investments in child development – consolidating gains and even offsetting the effects of deficits and traumas experienced earlier in childhood.


Nikola Balvin; Prerna Banati

This evidence gap map (EGM) collates the evidence base for adolescent interventions in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), with a focus on the outcome domains of protection, participation and financial and material well-being. Outcomes relating to the enabling environment for adolescents are also included to capture the contextual influences that might affect the well-being of adolescents. The EGM contains 74 studies (71 impact evaluations and 3 systematic reviews) of evaluated interventions targeting adolescents in LMICs. Most of the evidence is on financial support to individuals and households, where interventions predominantly include conditional cash transfers, and studies frequently evaluate their impacts on child labour and child marriage outcomes. The second largest evidence cluster relates to the impacts of socio-emotional learning and life skills on adolescent protection, particularly protection-related attitudes, skills and knowledge, while psychosocial support is the third most frequently appearing intervention. At the group and community level, the largest bodies of evidence are on financial literacy and savings schemes, and norm change interventions. The largest evidence gaps are at the policy and institutional level, the enabling environment for adolescent well-being, and the use of and access to information and communication technology (ICT) by adolescents. While coverage of gender is prominent in the literature, only one intervention specifically targets boys and men to promote attitudes towards gender equity. Recommendations for future primary research and synthesis are made. The interactive EGM is available online at


Shivit Bakrania; Anita Ghimire; Nikola Balvin


Positive and negative spirals and the plasticity of the adolescent brain (06 Mar 2018)

Contrary to what my parents remember about it, my own recollections of adolescence are quite positive. ...

What is gender socialization and why does it matter? (18 Aug 2017)

Even if you are not familiar with the concept of “gender socialization”, it is most likely that you have been influenced by it a ...


Developing the Evidence Gap Map for Adolescent Well-Being