Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 345–358 | Cite as

Going Home: The Complex Effects of Reunification on Internalizing Problems Among Children in Foster Care

  • Anna S. LauEmail author
  • Alan J. Litrownik
  • Rae R. Newton
  • John Landsverk


When children in foster care are reunified with their families of origin they encounter changes that may influence their well-being in both positive and negative ways. We examined the effects of reunification among 218 children in foster care to test an integrative model of the effects of reunification using structural equation modeling. We hypothesized that reunification would exert indirect effects on subsequent child adjustment via changes in adverse life events, perceived social isolation, and mental health service utilization. Results indicated no direct effect of reunification on subsequent internalizing problems, but reunification was related to increased adverse life events that, in turn, were related to elevated symptoms. Second, reunification was negatively associated with mental health service use. Finally, reunification was associated with decreased child perceptions of social isolation. In summary, reunification with biological parents is associated with multiple environmental changes, with most but not all effects indicating negative consequences.

children in foster care internalizing behavior problems adverse life events 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna S. Lau
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alan J. Litrownik
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rae R. Newton
    • 1
    • 3
  • John Landsverk
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Child and Adolescent Services Research CenterChildren's Hospital and Health CenterSan Diego
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySan Diego State UniversitySan Diego
  3. 3.Department of SociologyCalifornia State UniversityFullerton, Fullerton

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