, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 330-339
Date: 03 May 2006

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

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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.

Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine. Current interests: Cross-cultural study of adolescent well-being, at-risk youth.
Received PhD in clinical psychology from Radcliffe College, Harvard University. Current interests: Role of culture, family, peers, and nonparental adults in adolescent development
Received PhD in developmental psychology from University of Michigan. Current interests: Cross-cultural human development; neural bases of language and mathematical learning
Received PhD in developmental psychology from University of Strathclyde. Current interests: Life-span development, motivation and developmental regulation, control and health