PhD Student Position: Legal and psychological studies into elder abuse in the Netherlands

Updated: over 1 year ago
Job Type: Temporary
Deadline: 31 Dec 2022

Do you have a strong interest in conducting research at the intersection of criminal law and psychology? We are looking for a candidate who will examine the topic of elder abuse from both a legal and psychological perspective.

On 15 June 2022, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners published “Tackling abuse of older people: five priorities for the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021–2030)”. The WHO has set five priorities for the Decade of Healthy Ageing to prevent and respond to abuse of older people. The Netherlands is no exception to the global problem of elder abuse. A recent interview study conducted by Regioplan (completed in Rotterdam, Tilburg and Boxtel) concluded that one in 20 (5%) elderly people (defined as 65 and above) living independently reported having been abused. The most frequently reported type of abuse was financial abuse, followed by psychological and physical abuse (Bakker et al., 2018). However, there appear to be no Dutch prevalence data on elder abuse in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. This is a serious omission, because recent meta-analytic studies show that prevalence rates are higher in institutional compared to community settings (Yon et al., 2018).

In recent years, the Dutch government has invested in raising awareness about domestic abuse and increased preventive efforts, including elder abuse. There is a Reporting Code (in Dutch: Meldcode ) on Domestic Abuse, with legally binding guidelines for professionals who are concerned about domestic abuse in a case. Obviously, raising awareness and a Reporting Code are necessary but not sufficient conditions to stop elder abuse. Comijs et al. (1998) conducted a follow-up study of their victims after one year and found that roughly 40% of them were still being abused.

What are you going to do?

This PhD project will consist of four interrelated studies that align nicely with some of the WHO priorities: (1) Prevalence study of elder abuse in the Netherlands, both in the community and in institutions; (2) Experiences of victims of elder abuse; (3) Risk and protective factors for elder abuse; and (4) Elder abuse in criminal law. There is also opportunity to design additional studies.

The project will require intensive collaboration with societal partners, such as Safe Home (Veilig Thuis), the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Openbaar Ministerie) and the courts.

In addition to the PhD project you will also be involved in education for 10-20% of your contract. The exact courses that you will be teaching will be decided upon later.

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