Research into the profile and approach of teenage pimps

Project Details


Teenage pimps who emotionally manipulate (underage) vulnerable girls and young women or young men in order to exploit them step by step into highly lucrative (hidden) prostitution, is a problem that has gained a lot of attention in the past twenty years. Zanetti (2010: 15) formulated an often-used definition: "[Teenage pimps] are traffickers who deliberately make women and/or men emotionally dependent by (the promise of) entering into a love relationship and then (...) exploiting them, often into prostitution". Despite the greatly increased attention for detecting and tackling the phenomenon, our knowledge of it is still very fragmented and superficial. This applies in particular to the perpetrators or teenage pimps themselves (their modus operandi, motives, profiles, criminal trajectories, etc.), about whom very little is still known. This is partly due to the complex relationship between victims and perpetrators. Despite the harrowing stories, it is a common problem that victims of teenage pimps often do not perceive themselves as victims and see interference from the police or specialised care as a threat rather than a solution. This explains why teenage pimps manage to stay under the radar. The migration centre Myria mentions 'only' 18 sentences in relation to 'loverboys' in its database; the number of criminal cases and convictions for human trafficking is low due to numerous bottlenecks (Boels & Ponsaers, 2011). The gaps in our knowledge of perpetrators, their motives, methods and backgrounds impede the development of an effective approach and prevention of the problem. This research proposal wants to offer an answer to this by means of empirical research that, for the sake of feasibility, not only focuses on (convicted) offenders, but also on suspects and aims at gathering as many insights as possible into the backgrounds, motives, modus operandi and criminal careers of both groups. What follows is a clarification of the various knowledge gaps and methodological hurdles that we will have to take into account in order to conduct targeted and feasible empirical research on teenage pimps, which research questions we will focus on as a function of this and which, in our opinion, are the most suitable data collection and processing strategies.
Effective start/end date1/03/2231/10/22

Flemish discipline codes

  • Youth and life course criminology


  • Profile
  • Teenage Pimp
  • Research