Lectoraat Residentiële Jeugdzorg

Residential Youthcare

The Centre of Youth Expertise at the Leiden University of Applied Sciences, houses professors, researchers, teachers and students from different faculties (Social Work & Applied Psychology and Education). The Centre collaborates with other Universities, and generates knowledge on professional conduct for business practices and education concerning the counselling of children and (young (adults) with serious problems. The main focus of the Residential Youth Care research group is on conducting research in residential (forensic) (youth) care institutions. The Correctional Institutions for Juvenile Offenders (JJIs), Youth Care Plus institutions, forensic psychology and Special (Secondary) Education (VSO) have a special place in this research. The most difficult target groups are usually referred to these institutions. For employees educated to higher professional education, these target groups also present the greatest challenge in terms of creating and upholding a positive living group and work climate due to underlying problems. All the Correctional Institutions for Juvenile Offenders, dozens of other (open) juvenile institutions in forensic psychiatric treatment institutions, PPCs, in the Netherlands and 20 secure institutions elsewhere, both within and without Europe, are involved in our research group’s projects. In this field of research we have established a close collaboration with Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, the University of Amsterdam the VU University of Amsterdam and the Radboud University.

Living group, learning and work climate

Our research group comprises a group of enthusiastic researchers; professionals working in the field and in education who work together to set up long-term research projects studying the living group, learning and work climates of the less fortunate in our society. This might be the consequence of a genetic deficit, a handicap or growing up in a risky environment. Neglect, ill treatment and abuse often causes these people to go into ‘survival mode’ resulting in aggression and violence. A not infrequent consequence of these incidents and circumstances is victimization, and avoiding contact with others. These people need a safe place in which to grow up and recover where they are given support by way of positive contact and can work collectively on a realistic perspective; scientific research shows the significance of a safe social environment.

Objective of Residential Youthcare

The objective of our research group is to help create a place in society for children, adolescents and (young) adults by providing a safe (semi) secure environment in which they can grow up and (re)gain control of their own lives. We want to design this environment (the living group and learning climate) in consultation with the staff (the work climate) and thus create contact and new opportunities. The young people and the (young) adults have the first say and we have a professional work bond to provide sustainable recovery from within.


Our research group is committed to working with young people, (young) adults, professionals, researchers and the education sector towards an inclusive society where everyone is responsible for their own life according to their ability. The research group’s first mission is to improve the counselling and treatment of these people (children) for (future) professionals in an evidence-based manner. We want to teach (future) professionals, young people and institutions to work together to focus on contact and recovery. According to many of these young people, this recovery is characterised as ‘living normal’ (often summarized as having ‘Housing a Woman, Work and a Car’). We cooperate intensively with the people working in the field and in education who teach the future professionals, in both Universities (Social Work & Applied Psychology and Education) and in Master study programs. The Master in Youth Care at Leiden University of Applied Science is a good example of a study program taught by leading professionals for the uncompromising and challenging practice.

Lines of research

We have several lines of research, often following requests from practitioners. Each is supervised by teachers at Leiden University of Applied Science (and partner universities):

  • research into the living climate in the residential (forensic) (youth) care sector
  • research into the ‘learning climate’ of young people in special (secondary) education
  • research into the ‘work climate’ of staff in the residential (forensic) (youth) care sector
  • research into the ‘work climate’ of teachers in special (secondary) education
  • research into meaningful daily activities in the care of (young) adults
  • research into problematic social situations and causes of aggression and violence amongst young people and young adults
  • research into girls in secure youth care centres and correctional institutions for juvenile offenders.

Related (doctoral) research lines have also recently been set out:

  • research into alliance and treatment motivation amongst young people and young adults
  • research into causes of aggression and violence amongst young people and young adults
  • research into the counselling of young people and young adults with a mild intellectual disability
  • research into nursing care in the Netherlands
  • research into children’s rights in the youth care sector

Climate research projects

These (climate) projects are mutually interconnected because young people or clients and staff influence each other in a treatment or learning context (transactional processes, systems theory). Within these research lines there is special attention to gender-specific factors and aspects such as therapeutic alliance, self-image and coping with problematic social situations. The climate research projects are mainly based on self-report by way of questionnaires sometimes supplemented with qualitative research methods such as semi-structured interviews or group discussions. Institutions operating in the sector also contact us with climate-related research questions or relevant problems. We are happy to work with them and in doing so to connect research, practice and education.

Practice-oriented knowledge

The research projects conducted by our research group also focus on generating more practice-oriented knowledge about effectiveness and group dynamics in the detention centres. As a result we support this professional group (socio-therapists and other therapists) and future professionals at applied universities in exercising their profession.

Read more about the background to the living group climate research
Professor Dr G.H.P (Peer) van der Helm, is project leader of these research projects.
More information about questionnaire manuals