Publications 2021-01-05T08:51:17+00:00


Scientific article (31 December 2020)
‘I (really) know what you mean’. Mechanisms of experiential peer support for young people with criminal behavior: a qualitative study
by Margriet Lenkens, Gera Nagelhout, Loïs Schenk, Miranda Sentse, Sabine Severiens, Godfried Engbersen, Lisa Dijkhoff and Frank van Lenthe
Individuals with a criminal background are increasingly involved in support for people with criminal behavior. However, research into what happens in the relationship between these experiential peers (EPs) and clients is scarce. This qualitative study investigates EPs’ perspectives on the mechanisms of experiential peer support and how this compares to regular support by care providers without lived experiences. We interviewed seventeen EPs who provided support to young people with criminal behavior. The results suggest that shared experiences between EPs and their clients play a central role. EPs identify with their clients, leading to empathy and a non-judgmental attitude. Clients seem to perceive EPs as credible role models who offer hope. EPs’ lived experiences seem to induce a realistic view of desistance and an emphasis on a humane relationship with their client, which is characterized by equality, reciprocity, trust and sincerity. This recovery-oriented approach towards criminal behavior and desistance could also be utilized by non-EPs. Future research should investigate others’ perspectives on and experiences with experiential peer support, in particular those of clients and co-workers.

Scientific article (14 December 2020)
Instrumental Mentoring for Young Adults: A Multi-Method Study
by Loïs Schenk, Miranda Sentse, Margriet Lenkens, Gera Nagelhout, Godfried Engbersen and Sabine Severiens
Closeness between mentor and mentee is previously defined as an important indicator of relationship quality in youth mentoring, but whether this is the case in instrumental mentoring for young adults remains unclear. This is an exploratory study examining how instrumental mentoring serves young adults in their instrumental needs and how relational closeness develops. We applied a mixed-methods design, using quantitative data from a study of an instrumental mentoring program in Rotterdam, The Netherlands (N = 53), and qualitative data from a subsample of participants (N = 10). Two statistically distinctive clusters of closeness were found; 49% of the mentees reported high levels of closeness, and 51% reported low levels of closeness in their mentor relationship. Multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVAs) showed that the cluster with high levels of closeness was correlated with instrumental compatibilitysatisfaction, and perceived attitude similarities. Semi-structured interviews were used to illustrate the role and development of closeness for mentees in both clusters, and three cases were presented. Experiencing closeness seemed a result of receiving instrumental support, not a precondition. Mentees’ previous experiences might in some cases explain the lower levels of closeness, but this did not always hinder mentees to profit from their mentors’ support. 

Scientific article (25 September 2019)
An Examination of the Role of Mentees’ Social Skills and Relationship Quality in a School‐Based Mentoring Program
by Loïs Schenk, Miranda Sentse, Margriet Lenkens, Gera E. Nagelhout, Godfried Engbersen, Sabine Severiens
Research on youth mentoring highlights the importance of the relationship quality between mentor and mentee; mentoring results in more positive outcomes when the mentee perceives the relationship as satisfying and trustworthy. Research on relationship quality shows that social skills are important for constructing new relationships. However, whereas improved social skills are often one of the main goals of youth mentoring, little is known about the importance of social skills for relationship quality in youth mentoring relations. In this study, we examined whether mentee’s pre‐intervention social skills were related to mentor–mentee relationship quality as perceived by the mentee, and in turn, if relationship quality was associated with post‐intervention social skills. We additionally examined possible gender and age differences in these associations. Data were used from a two‐wave study that assessed relationship quality and social skills before and after one semester of mentoring of 390 secondary school students in a school‐based mentoring program. Results indicated that relationship quality was positively associated with post‐intervention social skills. However, only for young mentees pre‐intervention social skills were associated with better relationship quality. Moreover, only for young mentees, relationship quality mediated the association between pre‐ and post‐intervention social skills.

Scientific article (18 May 2019)
Experiential peer support and its effects on desistance from delinquent behavior: Protocol paper for a systematic realist literature review
by Margriet Lenkens, Frank van Lenthe, Loïs Schenk, Tessa Magnée, Miranda Sentse, Sabine Severiens, Godfried Engbersen, Gera Nagelhout
Experiential peers are increasingly involved in the development and delivery of interventions for individuals who are engaged in delinquent behavior. Experiential peer support, which is the provision of support to an individual engaged in delinquent behavior by someone who has previously also practiced such behavior, is one such application. Little is known, however, about its effects on desistance, or the mechanisms that explain these effects. On the basis of theoretical papers, program descriptions, and interviews with experts, we developed an initial program theory. We propose seven mechanisms that might play a role in the (potential) effects of support by experiential peers: (1) empathy and acceptance, (2) social learning, (3) social bonding, (4) social control, (5) narrative and identity formation, (6) hope and perspective, and (7) translation and connection. In addition, in this protocol paper, we describe the methods of a systematic realist literature review that will be conducted in order to investigate the evidence base for this program theory.

Scientific article (8 May 2019)
“I Need to Do This on My Own” Resilience and Self-Reliance in Urban At-Risk Youths
by Margriet Lenkens, Gerda Rodenburg, Loïs Schenk, Gera Nagelhout, Frank van Lenthe, Godfried Engbersen, Miranda Sentse, Sabine Severiens, Dike Van De Mheen
This qualitative study investigates urban at-risk youths’ perspectives on their multiproblem situations and explores their needs for support. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 23 at-risk youths with varied (externalizing) problems and risk factors. The data analysis was carried out using an inductive thematic approach. Four main themes emerged: desistance from delinquent behavior, need for self-reliance, negative experiences in social relationships and need for support. The participants indicated a strong need to be(come) self-reliant, which was visible in their statements on independence, coping with problems and reluctance to seek or accept help, also regarding desistance from crime. For some, this need for self-reliance seemed to be accompanied by distrust of others, which appeared related to previous negative experiences in social interactions. The participants seemed more open to support coming from someone with similar characteristics or experiences. The findings suggest that in helping at-risk youths, a delicate balance should be sought between stimulating autonomy and providing the necessary resources for support. A focus on strengthening factors that foster resilience is recommended. Future research could investigate the possible benefits of perceived similarity between youths and their care providers.

Factsheet (2 May 2019)
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rotterdam
by Margriet Lenkens, Loïs Schenk
In this Dutch-language factsheet, we describe our research into the community-based mentoring program of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rotterdam (BBBS). Within this program, voluntary mentors (Bigs) meet on a weekly basis with their mentees (Littles) to do something nice. The focus of this program is the personal attention for the child, broadening his or her horizon, and becoming motivated to bring the best out of themselves (source: BBBS). The program is meant for vulnerable children aged 5 to 18 years. For our study, we focused on Littles aged 12 to 18 years. This factsheet is a collection of a number of important findings and recommendations.
Link to factsheet

Factsheet (25 June 2018)
Mentoring of youth: effective elements
by Loïs Schenk, Margriet Lenkens, Gera Nagelhout
In this Dutch-language factsheet, we give an overview of effective elements of mentoring of youth, based on scientific literature and experiential knowledge. Mentoring is a form of personal guidance in which mentor and mentee have a one-on-one relationship, where the development of the mentee is the focus. Mentoring seems to have positive effects on for example presence and a better attitude at school, less alcohol and drugs use, and less delinquent behavior. Building a trusting relationship between mentor and mentee is crucial. This factsheet is made by the Erasmus Urban Youth Lab. This is an initiative of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam, and research institute IVO. In the research project ‘Vulnerable Youth in Major Cities’ we examine, among others, the effectiveness of and experiences with mentoring.
Link to factsheet

Scientific article (15 June 2018)
At-risk youths’ self-sufficiency: The role of social capital and help-seeking orientation
by Loïs Schenk, Miranda Sentse, Margriet Lenkens, Godfried Engbersen, Dike van de Mheen, Gera Nagelhout, Sabine Severiens
We conducted semi-structured interviews with 22 at-risk youths aged 15-25 years in an urban area, to study youths’ perceptions of help-seeking and social capital. Youths’ help-seeking orientation on the individual level, and the presence of bonding and bridging social capital at the contextual level, are important factors in explaining at-risk urban youths’ self-sufficiency. The results indicate that only few youths had positive help-seeking orientations, irrespective of their preference for self-reliance. Sources of help that youths felt comfortable to activate in their immediate environment were limited, but support was also found in extended family members. Bridging social capital was mainly provided by professionals and comprised of instrumental and informational support. Many youths believe they can be understood only by individuals who are similar to them, but simultaneously indicate a need for additional support from significant others.