Effect of childhood age in foster care on the incidence of divorce in adulthood

J Fam Psychol. 2010 Feb;24(1):101-4. doi: 10.1037/a0017940.


This retrospective study examines the long-term effect of the age at which British children were fostered in World War II on their divorce rate. A total of 859 respondents, aged 62 to 72 years, were recruited who had childhood homes in the county of Kent in southeast England during the war. Of these, 770 had been evacuated and fostered, and the remainder stayed at home. Reflecting the wartime concerns of Bowlby, Miller, and Winnicott (1939) regarding the wisdom of separating young children from their parents for a potentially long period, male and female respondents evacuated between the ages of 4 to 6 years had a significantly higher incidence of divorce compared with those in the 13- to 15-year age group. This association was found to be mediated by attachment style in which the fearful category was predominant. The relevance of these results in the broader developmental context, and to family counseling, are briefly discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Divorce / psychology*
  • Divorce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Object Attachment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires