Perceived Social Environment and Adolescents’ Well-Being and Adjustment: Comparing a Foster Care Sample With a Matched Sample
Previous research has demonstrated that former foster care youth are at risk for poor outcomes (e.g., more problem behaviors, more depression, lower self-esteem, and poor social relationships). It is not clear, however, whether these findings reflect preemancipation developmental deficits. This study used 163 preemancipation foster care youth and a matched sample of 163 comparison youth. Results showed that foster-care youth did not differ from the comparison sample on measures of well-being, including depressed mood, problem behavior, and self-esteem. Foster care youth reported higher levels of work orientation, but lower levels of academic achievement, aspirations, and expectations. In addition, compared to the matched sample, foster care youth perceived better social environments with respect to their important nonparental adults (VIPs) and peers, but poorer social environments relating to their parents. These differences in social environments may have offset each other and resulted in similar levels of psychological well-being for the two groups of youth. Regression analyses further showed that social environments were linked to selected adolescent outcomes, and nonparental VIPs were especially important for the foster care sample.
Key Wordsfoster care problem behavior depressed mood child maltreatment
This project was funded by grants from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, the School of Social Ecology, and the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center at the University of California, Irvine. The authors wish to acknowledge Gary Germo for his assistance with project management and a large team of devoted undergraduate research assistants, especially Morgan Kashinsky, Jeanette Milazzo, Jaime Padilla, Anna Pate, and Natasha Simpson.
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