Adverse family experiences among children in nonparental care, 2011-2012

Natl Health Stat Report. 2014 May 7;(74):1-8.


Objective: This report presents estimates of the proportion of children who have experienced selected adverse family events by the number of biological parents in the household, with a focus on comparisons among subgroups of children in nonparental care defined by caregiver type.

Data sources: Data were drawn from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health, a nationally representative telephone survey of households with children conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Results: Children in nonparental care were 2.7 times as likely as children living with two biological parents to have had at least one adverse experience, and more than 2 times as likely as children living with one biological parent and about 30 times as likely as children living with two biological parents to have had four or more adverse experiences. More than one-half of children in foster care had experienced caregiver violence or caregiver incarceration and almost two-thirds had lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem. Estimates for children in other nonparental care subgroups were lower than for foster care, but still elevated above those of children living with biological parents.

Conclusions: Children in nonparental care, especially those in foster care, are particularly likely to have experienced adverse family events. These events could have occurred at any time in the child's life and could have preceded or contributed to the child's current living situation. Nevertheless, children in nonparental care may be vulnerable to poorer health and well-being outcomes that are often associated with having had adverse experiences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Caregivers*
  • Child
  • Child Rearing / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Foster Home Care*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Life Change Events*
  • Mentally Ill Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data
  • Qualitative Research
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data