In the educational context, a distinction is made between primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. Primary prevention is based on the communication of norms and values. Central to this is the development of social skills and living conditions that support a positive social development in the sense of democratically negotiated norms in the interest of the common good. There are no specific target groups in primary prevention. Its purpose is to prevent people from taking actions that contradict socially negotiated norms.
A central challenge faced by young people is the formation of their own identity, i.e. the development of an inner unity of the person experienced as “self”. After the widest dissolution of pre-formed life plans, man in the 21st century is fundamentally free to shape his own life at will. In this social situation, which is also marked by profound economic upheavals, the demands on young people to create their own identity, a “good life” from all the many possible building blocks, are increasing. Young people in particular, who have few economic, social and cultural resources, experience this pluralisation not so much as liberation, but as a loss of security and reliability, and therefore, above all, as a burden. These young people feel overwhelmed by their shortcomings – actual or ascribed to themselves – and may succumb to the temptation to seek unshakeable certainties and moral guidelines. Extremist groups address the needs of young people for support, orientation and identity.
Accompanying young people at this stage of their development is an important part of prevention work. This not only represents violence and extremism prevention, but also provides support in postmodern identity work, addressing the needs for structure and security.
Space for exchange
Society should provide a safe space for young people to discuss sensitive issues such as sexual orientation, racism, political views, cultural differences, religion and mental health. The taboos and controversies sometimes associated with these issues cause a feeling of insecurity among many parents and professionals, which means that such topics are often not discussed in depth. However, ignoring them does not make the issues disappear and an extremist milieu can emerge to provide answers. Discussing taboos certainly means taking risks, but also taking responsibility for the psychological development of the next generation.