Attachment, Development, and Mental Health in Abused and Neglected Preschool Children in Foster Care: A Meta-Analysis

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2018 Oct;19(4):443-458. doi: 10.1177/1524838016669503. Epub 2016 Sep 22.


A proper preparation for foster parents to care for abused and neglected children includes effective training and initial diagnostics in order to plan individual treatment. Hence, a basic knowledge about the main psychosocial and developmental problems associated with abuse and neglect and their prevalence in foster children is needed. For this purpose, a systematical literature review and a series of meta-analyses were conducted. A total of 25 studies reporting data on development ( n = 4,033), mental health ( n = 726), and attachment ( n = 255) of foster children in preschool age met the inclusion criteria. The meta-analyses indicated prevalence rates of approximately 40% for developmental, mental health problems, and insecure attachment. Rates of disorganized attachment were estimated to 22%. These findings outline the necessity of an initial trauma-oriented diagnostics and trainings for foster parents that address foster children's development, mental health, and disorganized attachment.

Keywords: attachment; development; foster care; mental health; preschool children.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Foster / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Parents / education
  • Parents / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology