Violence and young people

Collaboration in the judgement of young offenders

We developed and tested an assessment tool for young offenders. The aim is to find out young people who are in danger of continuing a criminal life style. Therefore the assessment tool was presented as a psychosocial profile where it could be seen in which parameter (internal, external problems, social contents) problems were present. This information helps the judge to choose the most appropriate intervention. Once this intervention was finished – the person completed once more the assessment. Differences from time one and two gives an idea of changes in the psychosocial profile.


The multidimensional assessment tool was developed against the background if the supra-f- study. As risk behaviour is not uniformly distributed among all young people, it is necessary to identify those young people who are in fact at risk.

The aim oft the multidimensional assessment is to detect and describe the distribution of various patterns of risk factors among a population of young people. It incorporates four parameters: Social background coverts he following life domains: parents or family (living without mother or father, parents separated or divorced, mother or father unknown or deceased); school (number of changes of school, number of school years repeated) or vocation (dropped out of apprenticeship); living conditions (number of moves, time spent in care/custody/psychiatric treatment).

Internal symptoms relate to depressive mood, anxiety and suicidality.

External behaviour comprises five different areas: aggressive/antisocial behaviour, social problems, attention deficits and hyperactivity. In addition, delinquency is covered by a further questionnaire.

Substance use: The main substances considered are alcohol, cannabis and tobacco. For each substance, the following questions are asked: use (yes/no); if yes, since when (lifetime prevalence); and use in the last 30 days. In addition, a list of other, less frequently used, substances is also presented. 



The aim of KOPRAX (controlled practice) is to give interventions with a scientific foundation a more prominent place in secondary prevention, to aid the exchange of experience and to improve the quality of intervention. The strategies used are training supervision and evaluation.

Evaluation of the SeMo

Motivationssemester (SeMo)

On starting and before leaving the institution people filled in several questionnaires. These concern social situation, well-being and substance use. One year later the same group filled in a third time these questionnaires. In doing so we found parameters which favour or hamper social and professional integration in the society. 


PESS (projet expérimental de santé scolaire)

To study health concerns in primary and secondary schools the Canton Fribourg started this project known as PESS (project, experimental, health in school). Several schools and classes were asked to fill in questionnaires on well-being (depression, anxiety, suicidality) external problems and substance use. Three years of research gave an overview of problems in school and teachers. Results show that social and well-being parameters are disproportional distributed. Therefore the impetus for preventive activities is clear in that sense that only a minority need professional interventions. In addition two interventions were implemented in school and effects were evaluated. First early detection by teachers could work and second a relaxation training periodically offered, influence the school climate and facilitated learning (see for details, News) 


The aim of the monitoring is to detect existing risks among youths in different centres – among others in the motivation’s semester (SeMO) of the state office for economy (seco) – and thereby allow the possibility for adequate interventions.

In its last report about the motivation semesters (SeMo) 1999-2000 the seco has directed its attention towards the group of youths who abandon the SeMo or who find themselves in yet another transition program after its completion. One possible hypothesis is that this group does not fail due to a lack of apprenticeship offers, but because of a lack of personal resources and a difficult social situation. It seems that in order to help these young people the psychosocial problems that they encounter need to be addressed.

The idea of monitoring stems from this context. The concept is tightly linked with the concept of secondary prevention: it is based on the principle of preventing the development of mental illnesses by giving adequate support to people in difficult situations (psychological problems, behavioural problems, substance abuse etc.). Therefore, it is important to identify existing risks and to take targeted measures.

Between December 2004 and June 2005 we have collected data about the psychosocial situation of around 1200 young women and men from the German- and French-speaking part of Switzerland with the aid of an extensive questionnaire on the Internet. Following risk factors were searched for: mental health, behavioural problems, substance consumption and social context (the sociobiographical history of the young people).

The result of this data collection verified the hypothesis of the seco: around 40% of the participants attracted attention because of risk factors. The large proportion of participants presenting risk factors shows the necessity to offer adequate help in the SeMo. It seems that the usual offers do not suffice to integrate these young people into the working life. Even if there was a sufficient number of apprenticeship places, these youths would find it difficult to accomplish this kind of training due do their psychosocial difficulties.

The improvement of the occupational and social integration of these youths presenting a higher risk does not belong to the task domain of the unemployment insurance, and demands an inter-institutional collaboration between the fields of health, education, social services and economy, and on different levels, such as the community, the canton and the confederation.

Based on the existing results, we have developed a secondary prevention program (VIVA) on behalf of the BAG, which was adapted particularly for young people with difficulties in the SeMo.


The cohort study supra-f is a longitudinal study from 2005 to 2008. The cohort study is a follow-up study of supra-f, which took place between 1999 and 2004. The aim of the cohort study is to prolong the data collection of the youths involved in supra-f in order to be able to follow their development in terms of integration, well-being and substance consumption. This allows to gain more knowledge about the longterm effects of secondary prevention in the supra-f centres.

supra-f is a research project in the domain of substance abuse prevention and the promotion of health for youths at risk living in Switzerland. After the three points of measure during supra-f, two further waves of data collection will take place for the cohort study. The first wave from 2005 until the end of 2006 has already been completed and the second wave from 2007 to 2008 is about to take place.

Our ideal would be to reach all of the 1500 youths that took place in the supra-f study for the further two data collections. For obvious reasons, however, we already know we will not be able to reach all of the initial participants (due to adress changes, emigration, in extreme cases due homelessness etc.).

The five points of measure will allow us to follow the development of youths at risk over five to 10 years until adulthood. The most important aspects to us are mental health, substance abuse and in particular social and vocational integration. It will also be possible to compare the postulated differential development between youths that have completed a program in one of the  supra-f centres from their peers in control group. This means that the cohort study will allow us to evaluate the longterm effectivity of supra-f.


The supra-f programme launched by the FOPH at the end of the 1990s represented the first sustained investment in the previously neglected area of secondary prevention. The aim was to evaluate community-level early intervention approaches for the segment of young people at risk. The supra-f research programme was designed to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of interventions, using scientific methods. The underlying concern was to raise awareness of questions of effectiveness among policymakers and practitioners ( Schlussbericht von supra-f )