Youths in custody in NSW: aspirations and strategies for the future

7 Nov 2013

Aim: To investigate the extent to which youths in custody 1) rate specific life goals as important and likely to eventuate; 2) have strategies to achieve their goals; and 3) can anticipate barriers to achieving their goals.

Method: A total of 107 detainees drawn from NSW Juvenile Justice centres were interviewed about their life goals.

Results: Most youths rated specific life goals, such as having a well-paying job and avoiding trouble with the police, as ‘quite important’ or ‘very important’ goals to achieve in the future. When youths were asked how likely it was that these specific goals would be realised, the most common response was ‘quite likely’ or ‘very likely’. The most frequently identified strategies for having a well-paying job included getting the necessary diplomas and starting in a junior position to get experience. The most frequently identified strategies for avoiding trouble with the police were resisting peer pressure and obeying the law. Commonly reported barriers to achieving these goals included associating with antisocial peers, drugs and alcohol usage. Many youths also recognised that getting into trouble with the law would also be a barrier to having a well-paying job.

Conclusion: Most youths interviewed in this study placed high importance on specific life goals and were generally optimistic about achieving them. Furthermore, most youths could think of strategies that would help them achieve their goals as well as identify possible barriers to achieving them. These findings have the potential to help service providers and policy makers target their services and policies appropriately.

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