Experiential peer support and desistance from crime: a systematic realist literature review

Margriet Lenkens*, Frank J. van Lenthe, Loïs Schenk, Miranda Sentse, Sabine Severiens, Godfried Engbersen, Gera E. Nagelhout

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Although support by experiential peers for individuals with criminal behaviour is increasing, an empirical basis for its effectiveness is lacking. The purpose of this review was to investigate outcomes, mechanisms, and contextual factors of individual support by experiential peers for individuals who display criminal behaviour. We conducted a systematic realist literature review to test and refine our initial programme theory, which included seven mechanisms that may play a role in the desistance-supportive outcomes of experiential peer support. We screened 6,530 scientific papers and eventually included 25 articles focusing on asymmetrical one-on-one support for and by individuals with criminal behaviour. The findings suggest that experiential peers show empathy and have a non-judgmental approach, are considered role models, establish a trusting relationship with clients, offer hope, connect clients to other services, and have a recovery perspective on desistance. We found results indicative of act-desistance, positive personal development and improvements in mental health and personal circumstances, although study results were not consistent. The information on contextual factors was too limited for a robust analysis. Future research should not only focus on objective measures (e.g. absence of criminal behaviour), but also on subjective measures (e.g. hope, self-esteem) and investigate long-term effects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

This research was funded by Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam by means of a ‘Research Excellence
Initiative’ grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

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