How to motivate incarcerated youth? Issues of an early-career researcher

This month’s contribution comes from Aniek van Herwaarden, who is a graduate student at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. She is involved in research projects which address behavioral problems in youth with mild intellectual disabilities. In this blog post, she evaluates her experiences as an early-career researcher in this field.

As I am currently working as a student assistant on a project for youth who are resident in juvenile institutions, several ethical, practical and societal issues cross my mind. In this blog post, I will describe some of these issues. In particular, motivation of incarcerated youth and being an early-career researcher are two of the major difficulties I encountered during my work at the juvenile institution.

How to make your participants as excited as you are about your research?

Within the research project “Change Your Mindset! – Forensic Care”, a newly developed, short-term, on-line intervention program is being carried out. This project is a collaboration between the University of Amsterdam and Pluryn in The Netherlands, by principal investigator Petra Helmond. The intervention targets at changing the participant’s mindset from a fixed mindset to a so-called “growth-mindset”. The latter includes a way of thinking in possibilities and growth, rather than pessimism and disabilities (see also: Yeager & Dweck, 20121).

As a researcher, you would think this program sells itself: it is on-line, it contains fast videos and interactive animations, it involves peers who have been in prison as well, and gadgets (rewards) are provided after each session. Unfortunately, practice shows differently. Continue reading

  1. Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational Psychologist, 47(4), 302-314. []