Possible Selves and Risk Behavior Among Adolescents in Conflict with the Law in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Methods: The study uses survey and case file data from interviews conducted with 187 adolescent boys residing in JDCs across Jordan as part of the Community-Family Integration Teams Project (C-FIT) Screening Study. Possible selves were assessed using standardized questionnaire asking youths to describe their expected and feared possible selves as well as strategies to achieve or avoid the future self. Content analysis and bivariate tests of association were used to describe the possible selves and their associations with behavioral and emotional problems.
Results: Ninety-percent of youths report having an expected self, primarily related to achievement-related goals (e.g., getting a job). Slightly less (87%) youths reported at least one feared self, with a majority of these related to non-normative behaviors (e.g., getting in trouble). Most future selves had a strategy attached to them. About 60% of feared strategies qualified as relevant and effective discrete tasks; whereas among the expected selves strategies, 60% were relevant to attaining the future self, 52% qualified as effective, and only 45% were discrete tasks. Sixty-percent of both expected and feared strategies were self-regulated, with the youth taking a central active role in the planned approach to achieving the future self. Experiencing physical abuse was significantly associated with reporting fewer strategies and with strategies of poorer quality than youths without a report of physical abuse. Statistically significant differences in the presence of feared selves and their related-strategies were found with regard to discouragement about the future, suicidal ideation, symptoms of affective disorder, aggressive behavior, and conduct problems.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that Jordanian youths in detention have a clearer vision of how to avoid becoming their feared future selves than of how to realize their expected selves. Additionally, youths lacking clear self-regulated strategies for avoiding their feared selves show higher levels of suicidal ideation, as well as affective disorders and conduct problems. In contrast, the presence of achievement-related future selves may serve as a protective factor against externalizing behavioral problems. A growing body of international research highlights the risks associated with institutionalized responses to youth in conflict with the law. Findings underscore the need to help detained youth consider their future possibilities and to increase skills in developing effective and self-regulated strategies for reaching these goals.