Exploring the impact of meaningful employment upon the identity and desistance process of young offenders

Oswald, Rebecca (2020) Exploring the impact of meaningful employment upon the identity and desistance process of young offenders. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

Understanding youth desistance and the factors that can support it is very important to reduce the persistence of offending into adult criminal careers. Research regarding the relationship between employment and desistance demonstrates mixed results and consequently scholars question whether perhaps only a certain ‘type’ of ‘high-quality’ work might promote desistance. This thesis investigates whether ‘meaningful work’ - a concept that has primarily been examined in occupational psychology - can be a potential precursor for youth desistance.

This thesis utilises a case study of the Green Light social enterprise, which provides outdoor employment for offenders aged 16-18. The experiences of twenty-three employees of the Green Light were examined through participant observations and semi-structured interviews. A document analysis of young people’s records held by the Youth Offending Team was also conducted. Data gathered regarding the young employees was supplemented by semi-structured interviews with Green Light supervisors.

The results demonstrate that, firstly, young people with a history of criminal involvement have specific criteria for ‘meaningful’ employment. Young people’s conceptions of meaningful work differ from that specified in existing research in occupational psychology, which has largely been conducted with adult professionals. This therefore reveals the limits of the scholarship in this area; it does not fully resonate with diverse groups such as the participants in this study. Secondly, the findings demonstrate that those youths who found meaning in their employment at the Green Light developed a stronger pro-social identity, aiding their desistance. This therefore indicates that engaging in meaningful employment can be important for youth desistance. However, the findings also suggest that not all young offenders find inherent value in legitimate employment and their social network can play a key role in whether participation in work will aid pro-social identity construction and desistance.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Criminology, Crime, Northern England, Qualitative research, Case study research
Subjects: L900 Others in Social studies
M900 Other in Law
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2021 14:49
Last Modified: 31 May 2021 14:40
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/45849

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