Nadège Brassine receives a FRESH grant to study juvenile delinquency


His project aims to demonstrate the value of a more humanizing approach to the assessment and reintegration of minors in conflict with the law.

Can you tell us more about your research project?

I am interested in the care of minors in conflict with the law and, more specifically, in how the assessment phase is conducted. To contextualize, since 2018, the reform of youth protection in the French Community, structures the care of these young people in two stages: the assessment, during which we seek in particular to predict the risk of recidivism, and the intervention, where we concretely determine the form of care.

The usual approach to assessment focuses on the risks that the person represents and the problematic aspects of his situation. It is a model that leaves little room for the individual, considering only the negative aspects of his or her identity and focusing exclusively on delinquent behavior. Through my research project, I wish to demonstrate the interest of practices that take into account the strengths and resources of youth.

It is a much more humanizing way of doing things, which involves young people in their rehabilitation by giving them perspectives and by identifying with them the resources they already possess. Concretely, we identify with them their needs and the resources they can mobilize to achieve them, without going into delinquency.

My research will aim to validate the recidivism risk assessment tool, ERIFORE, developed by my promoter Cécile Mathys and already used in the field in French-speaking Belgium and Quebec. ERIFORE has the innovative characteristic of combining an evaluation of the problems and strengths of the minor in conflict with the law.

How did you come to be interested in this subject?

During my bachelor's degree in social work, I had the opportunity to do internships with young people placed in IPPJ (Public Youth Protection Institutions). This was a real revelation for me, I made it my vocation. And it is what pushed me to start a master in criminology.

In talking with the youth, I realized that they were resourceful and that this aspect was not sufficiently taken into account. While doing research, I discovered the existence of other approaches to psychosocial rehabilitation, such as the "Good Lives Model". The meeting with my promoter, whose approach is in the same direction, was also decisive.

What could be the concrete impacts of your research?

The impacts are on different levels. For minors in conflict with the law, first of all, integrating the forces in their evaluation gives them a much less stigmatizing image of themselves. Their difficulties are no longer solely pointed out. Also, this can be a good hook for care, allowing them to see meaning in it, because it implicitly implies that change is possible, and that they have resources to mobilize.

At the societal level, I am convinced that a more holistic approach to the situation of young people will make it possible to assess their risk of recidivism more accurately, by highlighting their difficulties, but also their resources. Generally, this risk of recidivism is overestimated by psycho-social personnel who place a lot of importance on delinquent behaviour and the seriousness of the act.

Finally, at the level of the scientific community, force-based approaches still lack legitimacy, as there is not enough empirical evidence of their effectiveness. My project could provide tangible evidence in favor of these methods.

What are the next steps for your research?

First, I will verify the psychometric qualities of the ERIFORE tool. To do this, I will analyze the files of young people who have been evaluated on the basis of this tool and also meet with field workers who use ERIFORE.

In a second phase, I will collect data directly from the young people concerned in order to examine their perceptions of their care environment, which integrates the Good Lives Model, the therapeutic alliance that is formed with the psycho-social staff, and the way in which they feel motivated or not to get involved in their care. These different variables will be analyzed with the official recidivism, in order to verify what, in the care, can be related to the (non) recidivism.

His background

Nadège holds a bachelor's degree in social work and a master's degree in criminology from the University of Liege. In 2021, she was awarded the David-Constant Fund medal. Prior to the FRESH grant, Nadège contributed to a Belspo-funded research project called @ntidote, which focuses on two forms of cyber-violence among youth aged 15-25: online hate speech and non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

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