Youth project with morality at its core aims to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour

A unique youth-focused initiative aims to provide young people with a “moral compass” to help them make important life decisions.

The Youth Compass Project has been designed to shift away from traditional disciplinary responses to youth crime and antisocial behaviour.

Instead, the 12-week programme for youngsters aged between 11 and 17-years-old, combines mediator-led discussions and interactive exercises such as creative tasks, role play, music and video, scenarios, moral dilemmas and debates.

The aim is to guide the participants through a range of topics:

  • Empathy – Understanding and responding to others’ emotional states
  • Moral rules – Exploring why behaviour is viewed as right or wrong, and the role of rules, laws and regulations
  • Moral emotions – Exploring the shame and guilt that can impact decision-making for anti-social behaviour and crime
  • Emotion management and regulation – Developing constructive responses to difficult situations, including mindfulness
  • Peer resistance – Developing strategies to build resilience to resist negative peer pressure and avoid rule-breaking

Principal investigator on the project, Dr Neema Trivedi-Bateman, of Loughborough University, said: “It is imperative that we move away from a punitive approach involving harsh punishments and negative labelling, and towards a supportive, empathetic approach to why young people break rules, including rules dictated by the law.

“Compass can offer a technique that to our knowledge has not been tested before; we can offer young people with new psychological tools and strategies to promote morality and emotion and encourage positive decision-making. Speaking generally, the current crime prevention initiatives do not work.”

The initiative is underpinned on situational action theory (SAT) – a model of crime which has morality at its core.

The key theoretical insights from SAT are that changes in morality correspond to significant changes in crime at the individual level.

Dr Trivedi-Bateman said: “SAT proposes that all acts of crime are acts of moral rule-breaking, and crucially, finds substantial evidence that morality is the key contributor to crime when testing against many other factors, such as self-control.

“The premise that the development of morality in childhood, adolescence and adulthood is continual and malleable allows for an opportunity to intervene.

“This means that interventions focusing on improving moral rules (how right or wrong one thinks illegal action is) and associated emotions (including empathy, shame and guilt) should lead to reductions in crime and improvement in prosocial behaviour.”

For more information visit the Youth Compass website.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/165

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2023 QS World University Rankings – the seventh year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.