In search of identity



Every year, nearly 10,000 young adults aged 18 to 25 are incarcerated in Québec prisons, a determinant event that will have a major impact on the rest of their lives.

Timely intervention is also critical to ensuring that the identity vacuum is filled before delinquent behaviour and adaptation to prison life come to fill the void.

In a study involving one hundred young detainees, Julie Marcotte, a researcher in the Department of Psychoeducation at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, showed that the majority of these incarcerated youth have a less developed sense of identity than university students or returning dropouts of the same age: they do not actively explore who they are and what they want to become, or they are stuck in a vision of themselves that they accept without question. The researcher deplores the fact that the psychosocial services offered in Québec's detention facilities do not target young adults or provide interventions tailored to their needs. At this decisive period in their lives, youth are in dire need of interventions that promote identity exploration and the development of a more positive life project. Timely intervention is also critical to ensuring that the identity vacuum is filled before delinquent behaviour and adaptation to prison life come to fill the void.

The results of this study were published in an article in Déviance et société. They were also presented at the Biennial conference of the European Association for Research on Adolescence in Greece, the Société de criminologie du Québec and the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime conference in Québec, and the Association  Internationale des Criminologues de Langue Française congress in Switzerland.