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A transdisciplinary approach to adolescent safeguarding education

02 October 2021
Volume 2 · Issue 5



Adolescent safeguarding is a key public health issue, which requires a transdisciplinary approach to address the range of safeguarding risks seen within this critical period of development. Aims: The aim of this research study was to explore the need for adolescent safeguarding education within transdisciplinary programmes.


A qualitative descriptive study was undertaken with participants studying or teaching on nursing, policing, social work, youth work and teaching programmes at a North-West University in England. Participation involved either the completion of a JISC online questionnaire or an informal interview, the data of which was analysed using thematic analysis.


Two key themes were identified in the data; safeguarding education and professional culture, and three subthemes: curriculum content and delivery and professional identity.


This study has highlighted the need to adopt a life-course (adolescence) and hybrid approach (uniprofessional and transdisciplinary) to safeguarding education in transdisciplinary programmes.

Adolescence is a critical period of development within childhood, where young people experience a range of biological, psychological, and sociological changes (Coleman, 2011). During this exciting transition young people develop a sense of self and identity, as well as new peer and romantic relationships (Littler, 2020). However, it is also a challenging period during which they may develop long-term health conditions and may be exposed to a range of risks within the wider social context (Viner, 2013) such as child sexual exploitation; self-harm, suicide, cyber-bullying, peer-on-peer abuse, gang violence (Sidebotham et al, 2016). Hence, it is of no surprise that the second highest safeguarding risks are seen within the adolescent life-course (Brandon et al, 2012).

Adolescent safeguarding is a public health issue that requires a transdisciplinary approach through partnership working between a range of professionals who support young people in practice such as nursing, policing, social work, education, and youth work (Littler, 2020). However, over the last decade, concerns have been raised about the ‘shortcomings of the current UK child protection system in identifying and responding to these risks’ (Peace and Atkinson, 2019: 3). Furthermore, safeguarding reviews (Munro, 2011; HM Government, 2018) have continually emphasised the importance of providing high-quality safeguarding education, as professionals report undergraduate education being inadequate in preparing them for their role in practice (Morgan and Spargo, 2018; Littler, 2019). This is essential to ensure professionals acquire and maintain the right knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values for safeguarding in practice (McGarry et al, 2015).

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