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The study of juvenile delinquency in Belgium (SRDBEL)

Research project TA/00/21B (Research action TA)

Persons :

  • Prof. dr.  DE FRAENE Dominique - Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/8/2010-31/7/2012
  • Dr.  CHRISTIAENS Jenneke - Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/8/2010-31/7/2012
  • Dr.  NAGELS Carla - Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
    Not-financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/8/2010-31/7/2012

Description :

This is the second phase of SRDBEL, a project focused on the study of juvenile delinquency in Belgium.

First phase

The first phase consisted in a large-scale quantitative survey on delinquent behaviour in the form of a self-administered questionnaire submitted to a representative sample of young people aged 14 to 16. Some 2,500 young people were surveyed at school; the anonymity of the respondents and of the schools was guaranteed.

The objective of this first phase of the survey was:
- to launch a systematised and representative collection of data on delinquent behaviour among minors in Belgium,
- to produce an effective data collection instrument based on large-scale experimentation and a critical review of the literature and of related national and international experiences.
The development of a data collection and analysis tool that can measure at regular intervals the self-reported problematic behaviour of young people, together with the relaunch of judicial statistics through the work of the National Criminology and Crime Detection Institute (INCC), will in time lead to a diversification and three distinct sources of information on the extent and morphology of juvenile delinquency, which is certain to enhance data quality.

The originality of the SRDBEL project resides in the coupling of this first quantitative phase with the qualitative phase currently under way.

Second phase

Self-administered questionnaires on delinquency that are filled out by young people at school are often criticised because they do not reach drop-outs or young people who attend school only occasionally. This data collection tool consequently misses part of the target population (described by some as the segment most likely to commit delinquent acts).

The second phase of this research aims to address this weakness by carrying out several dozen individual semi-directive interviews with young people not attending school. These interviews are intended to provide factual information on delinquent behaviour among young people not in school. Over and above the objective of completing the sample, however, this second phase is also meant to enable us to "decipher" qualitatively and gain insight into the reasons for and conditions in which delinquent behaviour occurs among all young people. This comprehensive approach will therefore also be applied to the individual interviews conducted in parallel with young people whose profiles are identical to those that make up the sample for the quantitative phase.

The interview guide used for this phase of the research will be developed on the basis of several elements: analysis of earlier literature and research, exploratory interviews and group interviews.

Schematically, the second phase of SRDBEL will contain the following elements:
- Analysis of the quantitative data collected in the representative sample of schools.

- Collection and analysis of the qualitative data collected among young people with profiles identical to the quantitative sample and of young drop-outs.

- Comparison and integration of the results of the quantitative and qualitative data, interpretation of the results and their comparison with local and national administrative data and international scientific data.

These data may be used at local, Community and federal level. This research will be useful both for police and judicial officials who deal with minors and for education and youth assistance officials. This type of data will make it possible to assess and adapt public policies, both preventive and judicial, at the local level and beyond.
More generally, this work may also be beneficial to the public at large since objective knowledge of juvenile delinquency will help to ensure that society's debate on the issue of delinquency is based more on the reality experienced by young people than on emotional reactions. In terms of dissemination, in addition to the usual reports and publications, round tables will be organised at local, regional and federal level to present and above all discuss the results obtained with practitioners and authorities concerned with the issue of juvenile delinquency. A website will also be set up to present the methodological instrument, the analysis of the survey findings and the related scientific publications. The site will be accessible to the players and authorities involved in the issue of juvenile delinquency in order to ensure continuity in the use of the survey.

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