PhD position The (anti-)therapeutic effects of participation in a criminal trial on mental health after bereavement

PhD position The (anti-)therapeutic effects of participation in a criminal trial on mental health after bereavement

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2 Jun 26 Jun Enschede

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Job description

Are you interested in why people respond differently to potentially traumatic life events? Do you have affinity with psychology and criminology? And are you eager to improve psychosocial and legal care to people who experienced a traumatic death of a loved one? Do you enjoy learning and applying advanced statistical analyses and combine that with qualitative research?

The research group Psychology, Health & Technology (PHT) offers a PhD position focusing on gaining empirical knowledge about the psychological impact of participation in a criminal trial on the mental health of bereaved people. This project will be conducted in collaboration with Leiden University (prof. dr. Maarten Kunst) and University of Groningen (prof. dr. Jos de Keijser). Supervisors at the University of Twente are dr. Lonneke Lenferink and prof. dr. Gerben Westerhof.

The legislator installed the right to speak with the aim of providing recognition to the victim and to support his/her adjustment process of the crime. Additionally, the legislator expected that victims would feel more involved in the criminal trial as a result of participation in the trial. After a homicide, manslaughter, or fatal traffic accident the bereaved loved ones are offered the opportunity to use their right to speak.

Till date, it is still unclear if, and to what extent, the proposed therapeutic aims of the right to speak (i.e., offering recognition and support to the victims) are met.

Participation in the criminal trial may enhance, but may also hinder the grieving process. To illustrate this, participation in the criminal trial, for instance by using victims' rights or by visiting hearings, may lead to (re-)confrontation with painful information, such as documents and pictures of the fatal incident, which may result in secondary traumatization. Increasing knowledge on the psychological impact of participation in a criminal trial on the mental health of bereaved people is urgently needed to improve psychosocial and legal care.

This PhD-project will provide insights in to what extent participation in a criminal trial is therapeutic for bereaved people. In doing so, existing longitudinal survey-data will be analyzed, collected among people who lost loved ones after the MH17 plane crash. Passenger-flight MH17 was hit by a Buk-rocket on July 17 2014 and crashed in Ukraine. None of the 298 people, including 193 Dutch people, survived the crash. In March 2020 a criminal trial started, in which suspects who are held accountable for shooting down flight MH17, are being brought before the Dutch court. Till now, data from seven annual measurement occasions are collected among about 300 MH17 bereaved people. Your role will be to prepare the last and eighth measurement occasion, which will take place once the judges made their final judgement (expected in fall 2022). You will analyze these longitudinal data using advanced statistical analyses to answer novel research questions, such as "To what extent are experiences regarding participation in the criminal trial related to grief reactions and wellbeing levels in MH17 bereaved people?" and "What is the role of anger in the grieving process during criminal proceedings?"

Differences between the course and outcome of a criminal trial may confound the effects regarding the effectivity of the right to speak. Findings regarding the effectivity of the right to speak in 'large' criminal trials (such as the MH17 criminal trial) may therefore not be generalizable to findings from studies conducted among people participating in relatively 'smaller' criminal trials. Therefore, you will collect and analyze interview-data in about 10-20 bereaved people who lost loves after a traffic accident, homicide, and MH17 plane crash to get more insights into similarities and differences of the impact of participation in a criminal trial on mental health between the groups. The key question during the interviews is: "What are your experiences during the criminal trial and to what extent did participation in the criminal trial impacted your adaptation process to the loss?"


University of Twente (UT)


We are looking for a candidate with the following characteristics:
  • You have a completed master's degree in psychology or a related field and you have affinity with criminology/victimology and/or (criminal) law.
  • You have experience and affinity with both quantitative and qualitative research methods and analytical thinking is one of your core strengths.
  • You have good to excellent Dutch and English communication skills.
  • You are not afraid to take on an ambitious project.
  • You are proactive, have great people skills, and have a 'getting things done' mentality.

Conditions of employment

The UT offers a dynamic and international environment, combining the advantages of academic research with a subject of high industrial relevance, excellent working conditions, an exciting scientific environment and a green and lively campus. The conditions of employment are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Universities and include:
  • You will have an employment contract of 1.0 FTE (40 hours) for the duration of 3 years and can participate in all employment conditions offered by the university such as bicycle plan, free fitness/sports activities.
  • The gross monthly salary starts at € 2,443 in the first year and amounts to € 2979 in the third year of employment. In addition, the University of Twente provides a holiday allowance of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3%.
  • Excellent facilities for professional and personal development.
  • A training programme in which you and your supervisors draw up a plan for training and supervision.
  • As a PhD student you will be registered with the Twente Graduate School.
  • We encourage a high degree of responsibility and independence, but also stimulate interaction and discussion with colleagues.


  • PhD
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • €2443—€3122 per month
  • University graduate
  • 588


University of Twente (UT)

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Drienerlolaan 5, 7522NB, Enschede

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