Repression in Residential Youth Care: A Qualitative Study Examining the Experiences of Adolescents in Open, Secure and Forensic Institutions [2017]

Repression in residential youth care institutions can manifest itself openly in coercive measures or may be concealed in staff behavior that is endemic to residential youth care, such as soft power and strict behavioral control (i.e., structure), which threatens rehabilitative goals and might even violate children’s rights. To increase awareness of particularly the more hidden aspects of repression, this qualitative study follows the framework method to examine processes that cause adolescents to experience repression. Semistructured interviews were conducted with an ethnic diverse sample of 32 adolescents from open, secure, and forensic (i.e., youth prisons) residential youth care institutions in the Netherlands. Results indicated that adolescents tend to accept structure, rules, coercion, and punishments, and that they expect staff to use their power to create order and safety. However, results also showed that restrictive measures may be approved by adolescents to cope with repression, taking the form of rationalization. Staff behavior perceived as unfair or excessive by the adolescents was conceived of as repressive. Respect for autonomy and providing treatment that is experienced as meaningful by the adolescents seem to decrease experienced repression.

S. de Valk, C. Kuiper, G. H. P. van der Helm, A. J. J. A. Maas, G. J. J. M. Stams
Journal of Adolescent Research, July 9, 2017