Purpose: Children and adolescents living in youth welfare institutions often have a below average quality of life (QoL), for reasons that include developmental difficulties, history of traumatic experiences, and mental disorders. Youth welfare measures are needed that would have a positive impact, but there is a lack of longitudinal research on which measures are most effective. This study investigated what factors are associated with an improvement in QoL during residential stay.
Methods: Residents of youth care facilities in Switzerland and their professional caregivers completed questionnaires that addressed QoL, psychopathology, and experience of traumatic events at two time points. In addition, information regarding mental disorders was obtained through structured clinical interviews. Analyses were conducted on the data obtained from 204 respondents aged 11-18 years. Comparisons with a school sample were conducted.
Results: Compared to a school sample, a majority of participants rated their QoL equal, whereas their caregivers rated it as lower. Factors predictive of a poorer QoL were high levels of internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, presence of co-morbidities, and female gender. At the second assessment, the caregivers reported a small improvement, which was associated with reductions in both internalizing and externalizing psychopathology.
Conclusions: The finding that a reduction in severity of psychopathology may result in an improvement in QoL underlines the importance of providing professional support for mentally ill residents of youth welfare institutions. Further research is needed to determine the causality of this association.
Keywords: Inventory of life quality in children and adolescents (ILC); Mental health problems/psychopathology; Quality of life; Residential care; Youth welfare.