Risk behaviors in maltreated youth placed in foster care: a longitudinal study of protective and vulnerability factors

Child Abuse Negl. 2002 Nov;26(11):1179-99. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(02)00391-5.


Objective: Few studies have examined the impact of placement in foster care prospectively to determine what early responses might predict later functioning. The current study examined protective and vulnerability factors in a longitudinal study of youth placed in foster care.

Methodology: A cohort of 214 ethnically-diverse youth, ages 7-12, who entered foster care between May 1990 and October 1991 were recruited for the Time 1 study if they remained in foster care for at least 5 months. For the Time 1 study, youth and their caregivers were interviewed and assessed approximately 6 months following their initial placement. Six years later, as adolescents, the youth were re-interviewed regarding their involvement in four domains of risk behavior.

Results: Bivariate analyses indicated that several Time 1 control variables (e.g., age, ethnicity, type of maltreatment, behavior problems) and Time 1 psychosocial predictor variables (i.e., dimensions of social support and self-perception) were related to the Time 2 risk behavior outcomes. Regression analyses with all variables accounted for between 33 and 46% of the variance, with the psychosocial predictor variables, as a group, significant over and above the control variables.

Conclusions: The results suggest that there are some modifiable protective and vulnerability factors present shortly after maltreated youth are placed in foster care that predict their engagement in adolescent risk behaviors 6 years later.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Algorithms
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Welfare / psychology*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Foster Home Care / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology