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Center for Research on Youth at Risk

Center for Research on Youth at Risk

Chaired by Dr. Hagit Turjeman
WGC’s Center for Research on Youth at Risk is dedicated to estimating the scope, characterization, and methods for dealing with the youth at risk phenomenon in northern Israel. Research topics include exploration of gender differences, risk and protective factors, prevention methods, tools for enhancing self-image, wilderness therapy, and more.
The WGC Center for Research on Youth at Risk was made possible by the generous support of the Thomases Family Endowment of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation.
In recent years, Israel has faced a dramatic rise in juvenile delinquency, together with an increase in the severity of the crimes. In the Northern periphery, the percentage of at-risk youth is above the national average. Furthermore, many of the characteristics that describe the North are known to be common features of the settings which amplify risk, notably: lower socioeconomic status, higher rates of unemployment, and lower access to services.
WGC Center for Research on Youth at Risk
WGC has established a research center dedicated to studying youth at risk in Israel, with a particular emphasis on Western Galilee region. The Center is entrusted with the orderly and consistent collection of data on youth at risk, and the programs for prevention and treatment, resulting in a comprehensive professional observation of the scale of the phenomenon, its characteristics and the efficacy in dealing with it.
The primary goals of the WGC Center for Research on Youth at Risk include:
  1. Creation of a comprehensive database for longitudinal monitoring and mapping of the scope, characteristics and causes of risk, and the risk factors and protective factors of youth poised on the risk spectrum (from the bio-psychological, familial, social, legal aspects, and more).
  2. Mapping and assessment of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation programs in the region.
The Center conducts ongoing research on diverse topics related to youth at risk. Operation of a core longitudinal study serves as the foundation for a wide range of studies. Following is a brief description of the core research and several focused studies conducted by the Center. These studies are currently in various stages of planning and implementation.
Core Longitudinal Study: Development of Delinquency among Youth at Risk
Research goals include: (1) Creation of a comprehensive database for long-term monitoring and mapping of the scope, characteristics and causes of risk, and the risk factors and protective factors of youth poised on the risk spectrum; (2) Tracking the pathways of development and decline of delinquent behavior among youth with reference to the changes they undergo in the transition from childhood to adolescence, and later to adulthood.
Gender Differences among Teens in Coping with Distress (in cooperation with Ministry of Welfare and Social Services)
Studies indicate that teenage boys cope differently than girls in situations of distress (boys tend to act out and exhibit violence while girls tend towards introverted behavior, characterized by higher levels of depression and suicide attempts). This study focuses on the teenage boys and girls living in the Youth Protection Authority (YPA) dorms by court order, and will examine the differences in gender, the diagnostic tools available to institutions, and the ways of dealing with the teens in light of the existing gender differences.
Child Neglect: Evaluation of Treatment and Prevention Programs
Child neglect is the most common form of maltreatment and perhaps the most difficult to evaluate and manage. This study, with the funding of the National Insurance Institute of Israel and with the cooperation of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, assess the incidence of child neglect in Israel and focuses on the construction and evaluation of treatment as well as prevention programs aiming at reducing the phenomena.
Integration of Young Adults at Risk (ages 18-30) into a Normative Life Path
This study, in cooperation with and partial funding from the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, focuses on the transition of at-risk youth from adolescence to young adulthood, a crucial junction characterized by meaningful changes affecting their life course (e.g. entering the labor force and gaining economic independence, leaving parents' homes, independent household management, etc.). The knowledge acquired by the research will assist in determination and refinement of the goals and public policy with regards to assisting young adults at risk in their integration into society.
Evaluation of Wilderness Therapy Treatment
Wilderness Therapy focuses on the treatment of at-risk youth through a challenging experience in nature that helps strengthen their self-esteem and take responsibility for their fate. This method is currently an integral part of the treatment process for most of the youth disconnected from the youth correctional institutions. This study evaluates the Wilderness Therapy process and its outcomes.  WGC conducted a preliminary study (partially funded by the General Administrator of Estate Fund), and plans to expand the research in a comparative study between the behavioral parameters of the youth who participated in the wilderness expeditions vs. youth that participated in other programs.
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