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Social Support and Foster-Care Children’s Adjustment: A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample. Presented at the UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium by Rebecca Christensen. May 15, 2004. Acknowledgements. Dr. Chuansheng Chen

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Presented at the uci undergraduate research symposium by rebecca christensen

Social Support and Foster-Care Children’s Adjustment: A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

Presented at the

UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium

by

Rebecca Christensen

May 15, 2004


Acknowledgements
Acknowledgements A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

  • Dr. Chuansheng Chen

  • Dr. Valerie Jenness

  • Dr. Ellen Greenberger

  • Susan Farruggia

  • Gary Germo

  • University of California Irvine, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program


Introduction
Introduction A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

  • At any given time, about half a million U.S. children are in foster care (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003).

  • In California alone, 91,755 children live in out-of-home placements (i.e. foster family, group home, or an independent living program) (California Department of Social Services, 2003).

  • Many of these children may develop emotional and behavioral disturbances as a result of the negative life events they have experienced.


Previous research on foster care
Previous Research A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample on Foster Care

  • Foster children were found to exhibit lower levels of psychological well-being and adjustment (Hicks & Nixon, 1989, Cook-Fong, 2000).

  • In a sample of 9,167 children residing in out-of-home care, 42% possessed serious emotional or behavioral disturbances (Schneiderman et al., 1998).


The role of social support
The Role of Social Support A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

  • Many research studies have indicated that high levels of social support is correlated with increased psychological well-being in children.

    • It is very important for children to develop secure and meaningful attachments to their caregivers (Bowlby, 1969).

    • Increased rates of family support contribute to higher self-esteem in children (Roberts et al., 2000).

    • Youth may be at risk of suffering from anxiety and depression due to unsatisfactory levels of social support (Compas et al., 1986).


The role of social support cont
The Role of Social Support (cont.) A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

  • Increased levels of peer support may actually help to counteract the damaging effects of living in a unhealthy family environment (Ohannessian et al.,1994).

  • Familial and outside social support can mitigate the effects of maltreatment at an early age (Folkman, Chesney, Pollack, & Phillips, 1992).


Hypotheses
Hypotheses A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

  • H1: The foster-care sample will exhibit lower levels of psychological well-being and adjustment compared to their peers in the matched community sample.

  • H2: Foster-care children will be able to exhibit a high degree of psychological functioning if they receive high levels of social support (emotional and general) from peers, biological parents, and foster parents.


Participants
Participants A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

  • Adolescents in foster care (n=86) were matched with the community sample (n=86) based on the following characteristics:

  • Gender

    • 53% female, 47% male

  • Age

    • Mean age- 17.6 years

  • Ethnicity

    • 54% African American, 31% Mexican-American, 9% White, 4% Central American, 2% Other

  • Generational Status

    • 90% Born in the U.S., 10% Not Born in the U.S.

  • All participants reside in Los Angeles County

  • Procedures

  • Foster Care and Community sample were matched based on the following characteristics:

  • Ethnicity

  • Age

  • Sex

  • Generational Status


Procedures

Foster-Care Sample* A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

Participants completed a survey and interview section at a designated location near their place of residence.

Consent was obtained from DCFS and Juvenile Court prior to the interview.

Community Sample*

A survey was completed by the participants during one class period.

Parental consent was required if the participant was under the age of 18.

Procedures

*Foster-Care Sample was derived from the larger study, The Transition to Independence (n=190)

*Community Sample was part of the After High School study (n=1186)


Adjustment measures
Adjustment Measures A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

  • Depressed Mood was evaluated using the 20- item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (CES-D Scale, Radloff, 1977).

    • Sample item: “I felt that everything I did was an effort”.

  • The 10-item Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale (1965) was used to assess Self Esteem in this study.

    • Sample items: “On the whole, I am satisfied with myself”.


Social support measures
Social Support Measures A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

  • Warmth and Acceptance from foster parents, biological parents, and peers were evaluated using a modified version of Parental/Peer Warmth and Acceptance scale (Greenberger, Chen & Beam, 1998).

    • Sample item: “They enjoy spending time with me.”

  • General support was evaluated using a 9-point scale (Beam, Chen, & Greenberger, 2002).

    • Sample item: “Gave you financial advice.”


Findings h1 mean differences in outcome variables independent sample t test

Significant A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample*

Educational Aspirations

Educational Expectations

Not Significant*

Grades

Problem Behavior

Depression

Self-Esteem

Findings(H1) Mean Differences in Outcome VariablesIndependent Sample t-test

  • Foster-care children did not differ from the community sample in self-esteem and depressive symptoms. However, their levels of educational aspirations and expectations were significantly lower than their community counterparts.

*p <.05


Results (H2) A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

Foster-Care Sample

Grades

Educational

Aspirations

Educational

Expectations

Self- Esteem

Depression

Problem

Behavior

Parent

Warmth

-.187

-.152

.-.114

.150

-.429**

-.007

Peer

Warmth

-.244*

.091

.004

.369**

-.328**

-.011

Foster Par.

Warmth

-.267*

.067

.012

.371**

-.278**

.106

Parent

Support

-.095

-.038

.004

.019

-.128

.087

Peer

Support

.026

.112

-.006

.170

.022

.226*

Foster Par.

Support

-.110

.100

-.035

.220

-.013

.192

Table 1- Correlations Between Social Support and Outcomes

* p < .05

** p < .01

*** p < .001


Results (H2) A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

Community Sample

Grades

Educational

Aspirations

Educational

Expectations

Self-Esteem

Depression

Problem

Behavior

Parent

Warmth

-.017

-.018

-.061

.230*

-.167

-.046

Peer

Warmth

.191

.172

.081

.356**

-.444**

-.090

Foster Par.

Warmth

---

---

---

---

---

---

Parent

Support

-.179

-.102

.048

.205

-.002

.023

Peer

Support

-.102

-.058

.031

.201

-.135

.002

Foster Par.

Warmth

---

---

---

---

---

---

Table 2- Correlations Between Social Support and Outcomes

* p < .05

** p < .01

*** p < .001


Limitations
Limitations A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

  • The criteria used to match the foster-care and community sample were limited and could have included additional items such as the educational background of biological and foster parents.

  • Sample may not be representative of the total foster care population because data were collected from only one county.


Discussion
Discussion A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

  • The results of this study indicate that peer, biological parent, and foster parent warmth was positively associated with foster children’s psychological well-being.

  • Although the levels of self-esteem and depression did not differ between both samples, the lower educational expectations and aspirations amongst the foster sample brings into light the importance of these social support networks.


Implications
Implications A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

  • Programs that encourage interaction between foster parents, biological parents, and peers.

  • Training for foster parents to help deal with educational issues.


For more information contact me at
For more information contact me at: A Comparison with a Matched Community Sample

Rebecca Christensen

Dept. of Psychology and Social Behavior

University of California, Irvine

[email protected]


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