Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, 35:330

First online:

Perceived Social Environment and Adolescents’ Well-Being and Adjustment: Comparing a Foster Care Sample With a Matched Sample

  • Susan P. FarruggiaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California Email author 
  • , Ellen GreenbergerAffiliated withSchool of Social Ecology, University of California
  • , Chuansheng ChenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California
  • , Jutta HeckhausenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California

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Previous research has demonstrated that former foster care youth are at risk for poor outcomes (e.g., more problem behaviors, more depression, lower self-esteem, and poor social relationships). It is not clear, however, whether these findings reflect preemancipation developmental deficits. This study used 163 preemancipation foster care youth and a matched sample of 163 comparison youth. Results showed that foster-care youth did not differ from the comparison sample on measures of well-being, including depressed mood, problem behavior, and self-esteem. Foster care youth reported higher levels of work orientation, but lower levels of academic achievement, aspirations, and expectations. In addition, compared to the matched sample, foster care youth perceived better social environments with respect to their important nonparental adults (VIPs) and peers, but poorer social environments relating to their parents. These differences in social environments may have offset each other and resulted in similar levels of psychological well-being for the two groups of youth. Regression analyses further showed that social environments were linked to selected adolescent outcomes, and nonparental VIPs were especially important for the foster care sample.

Key Words

foster care problem behavior depressed mood child maltreatment