In this study, the Not Employed in Education or Training (NEET) condition was investigated in adolescents with a tendency towards unlawful behaviour, with the aim to investigate the main characteristics of such a condition during this stage of life. Tracing a socio-psychological and behavioural description is important to underline the features that characterize these adolescents and to highlight the possible sources of risk to which they are exposed as potential expression of social exclusion and psychopathological disorders.
All subjects (n = 143, range: 16 – 19 years) involved in criminal proceedings and addressed to the Juvenile Social Service Office (JSSO) of the Juvenile Court in the Marche Region from April 2010 to May 2011 were considered. Of these, 72 subjects did not attend school, had no vocational training and did not work, according to the NEET definition; therefore, they were included in the NEET target group. Another 71 subjects were engaged in work or school and therefore they were included in the No-NEET control group. Social folders of adolescents, processed through a JSSO assessment at the time of taking charge, were considered. Data were drawn up in cooperation with Ancona Adolescent Centre. The distribution between NEET and No-NEET allowed a comparison between the two groups and categorical data were compared using the chi square test (p < 0.05).
The adolescents with illegal behaviours were predominantly males (m = 93%, f = 7%). The foreign adolescents in the sample were 21.7%, increasing significantly up to 70% among NEET (p < 0.01). The cultural level was very low in both groups, but it was worse among NEET, with early school leavers (59%; p > 0.05). Families with economic difficulties were higher in the NEET (82%; p < 0.001) compared to the control group (29%). The percentage of separated/divorced parents between NEET was 70%, which was significantly different (p < 0.005) from the No-NEET group (30%). No drug abuse differences were found between the two groups. However, NEET committed less crimes related to drug dealing (31.3%; p < 0.025) and fewer crimes against persons (especially sexual crimes: 21.5%) compared to the No-NEET (78.5%). NEET committed more crimes against property (62.1%), adopting violent behaviour, unlike No-NEET (p < 0.001). 82% of the entire sample defined its friendly relations as good, but 61% of those in the NEET group did not have good socialization. Finally, a higher NEET distress with a psychopathological expression (p < 0.01) was observed. In fact, in this group there was a higher rate of personality disorders (40.7%), cognitive impairment (29.7%) and mood disorders (22.2%). There was a significant difference between NEET and No-NEET in the type of crimes committed, in the modalities of conduct and in self-perception.
This study provides an overview on the NEET condition associated with deviant behaviours during adolescence. In fact, these two culturally different phenomena can be associated only during adolescence. Generally, it is difficult to find health promotion guidelines without focusing on the socio-cultural environment, which is not always negative. Furthermore, through understanding the specific modalities of functioning of an individual in self-referring experience, it is possible to improve diagnosis and provide insight in the different individual characteristics of NEET status. This is particularly important in adolescents affected by psychological problems who do not meet standard assessment criteria.