Abstract: Developmental trajectories of youth in child welfare: In-home vs. Out-of-home comparisons (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12054 Developmental trajectories of youth in child welfare: In-home vs. Out-of-home comparisons

Friday, January 15, 2010: 8:30 AM
Garden Room B (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Inseon Lee, MSW , Rutgers University, Doctoral Student, Piscataway, NJ
Cassandra Simmel, PhD , Rutgers University, Assistant Professor, New Brunswick, NJ
Background: The mother and child relationship has generally been found to be vital to the development of psychological functioning (Bowlby, 1969). In the case of child maltreatment, a mother can likely be the source of fear, and/or negligence (Main & Hesse, 1990). In this context, children moved from a damaging environment to a supportive foster home may develop healthy attachment relations, which subsequently can mitigate the negative effects of maltreatment. It is important to examine how the relationship between children and caregivers change over time, both when the child remains in home and when the child is placed in foster care settings, and also how the child's relationships with caregivers are associated with behavioral functioning. The present study addressed two main research questions: 1) Do youth in child welfare develop different caregiver relationships and behavior problems by duration in out-of-home care? 2) Are positive caregiver relationships associated with lower behavior problems over time?

Methods: The study used baseline, 18-month, and 36-month follow-ups from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW). The final sample included 950 youth aged 11 to 15. The samples were divided into four groups: foster youth, in-home youth, youth who were placed in foster-care at baseline and returned home at any subsequent wave, and youth who remained in home at baseline and then removed from home at any subsequent wave. CBCL Youth Self Report Internalizing and Externalizing behavior raw scores were used to measure youth behavior problems. Relatedness to the caregiver was measured using a shortened version of the Relatedness scale from the Rochester Assessment Package for Schools. Latent growth curve models were conducted using M-Plus 5.1. First, linear growth models were tested separately for behavior problems and caregiver relationships. Second, multi-group analyses were used to compare trajectories across four groups. Next, the relationship between caregiver relationships and behavior problems were examined. For all data analyses, sampling weights were used to explain the complex sampling design of NSCAW dataset.

Results: Linear growth models produced excellent model fits for internalizing/externalizing behavior problems and caregiver relationships. Internalizing behavior problems decreased slightly over 3-year period (M=-1.53, SE=0.33, p<.001). Conversely, externalizing behavior problems and caregiver relationships did not change significantly. Initial levels and rates of change of internalizing and externalizing problems and caregiver relationships were not significantly different between groups. The initial level of caregiver relationships was significantly related to initial levels of internalizing (B=-0.60, SE=0.09, p<.001) and externalizing (B=-0.42, SE=0.18, p<.05) problems. Rate of change of caregiver relationships was significantly related to rates of change of internalizing (B=-0.61, SE=0.08, p<.001) and externalizing (B=-0.77, SE=0.23, p<.001) problems.

Conclusions: The results demonstrate that youths' relationships with caregivers and behavior problems are comparable across groups. Irrespective of group status, caregiver relationships can have a significant influence on the manifestation of behavior problems. Understanding more about adolescents' relationships and behavior problems, and devising strategies for addressing them, will be helpful in planning targeted services for child welfare adolescents.