Violence is a common problem in secure residential units for young people. Group workers often think that young people have to learn to behave by means of punishment. The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether this approach is effective in these settings, and, if so, under what circumstances. Furthermore, it aims to provide alternatives to punishment when dealing with violence.
Recent evidence on the effectiveness of punishment in secure residential units is reviewed. In addition, methods which are promising in dealing with violence are described.
The review shows that punishment is often used to regain control by group workers or, alternatively, is a result of professional helplessness in the face of escalating problems. Only when the living group climate is marked by trust and cooperation can punishment be effective.
Punishment in secure residential settings can have severe negative consequences. Nevertheless, group workers are tempted to use it as a response to violence in an attempt to gain control.
This study was made possible by the support of the Reformed Civil Orphanage (Gereformeerd Burger Weeshuis), Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
de Valk, S., van der Helm, G.H.P., Beld, M., Schaftenaar, P., Kuiper, C. and Stams, G.J.J.M. (2015), "Does punishment in secure residential youth care work? An overview of the evidence", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 3-16. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCS-11-2014-0048
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