Youth work and prevention: A conceptual framework

J.J.J. Sonneveld

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractOther research output


Background and purpose: In Northwest European Welfare states there is a growing debate on the need for the professionalization of youth work practice. The aim ofprofessional youth work is the personal development of young people and the strengthening of their participation on all levels in society (Metz,2011). Characteristic of the professionalism of youth workers is that they use an open approach in contact with the target group (Metz, 2016).Youth work organizations pursue further improvement of quality and transparency in their work towards clients and governance. Also politicaldevelopments require to demonstrate the added value of youth work to active citizenship. Due to the lack of systematic methodologicaldevelopment in youth work and the complex, dynamic and interactive nature of youth professional’s way of acting professionally, theknowledge base of youth work has been poorly developed. To professionalize youth work it is required to make explicit and substantiate themethodical way of acting professionally. In this paper, we will present a conceptual model for youth work underpinned with practice basedevidence and literature.Methods:The conceptual model is based on a mixed method design of literature review, document analyses, observations, in depth interviewswith youth workers (77), and questionnaires (259 with youth that participate within youth work and 270 with youth that stay in the sameneighbourhoods and do not participate within youth work). We focused on four methods (Group Work, Individual Coaching, Information &Advice and Ambulatory services). By using practical knowledge we developed a perspective on professional youth work. Data is collectedin 8 different youth work organisations in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Zaandam in the Netherlands. The results of the research were validated infocus groups with youth workers and researchers.Results:The result is a conceptual model of the methodical way of acting professionally by youth professionals. Methodical way of acting professionallycan be described as a multi-methodic approach and consists of thirteen methodical principles. These principles are the guiding principleswhich are the basis of the methodical way of acting of social professionals in contact with the target group. There are indications that acombined use of the four different methods contributes to personal and social development of youth, social network support for youth, socialparticipation of youth and referring youth to appropriate social support. Conclusion and implications:With this conceptual model we made an important step in the development of a body of knowledge of professional youth work. It is apromising framework for youth work that allows to legitimize the profession and make knowledge transferable. Because the model is basedon the integration of different studies, further research is needed to test this model. In the study Power of Youth Work started last May weexamine (with 2000 young people) the added value of a multi-methodical way of acting professionally by youth work professionals on thepsychosocial development, the social network, and the social participation of young people (adolescents) and finding suitable support foryoung people from 10-23 years.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event8th European Conference for social work research - Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 18 Apr 201820 Apr 2018


Conference8th European Conference for social work research
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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