IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Attachment theory and change processes in foster care


  • Tucker, David J.
  • MacKenzie, Michael J.


Despite wide acceptance in the multifaceted field of child care policy and practice, attachment theory has found limited use in examining empirically the circumstances and conditions of special populations of children. This inquiry addresses this limitation by elaborating attachment theory as a foundation for contemporary foster care practice and policy. We focus on how caregiving contexts and the nature of their change selects certain characteristics and behaviors as relevant in explaining a child's risk of placement change in, or exit from, foster care. We use data on a population of 3448 foster children over a 21-year period to test arguments that children's strategies for dealing with change can be both resistant and adaptive, and that self-perpetuating patterns of attachment can contribute to increasing rates of change in children's lives. Results strongly support attachment theory as a transactional theory of change. Placement change not only influences the hazard of exit in the manner predicted but also engenders a “liability of change,” with early change influencing the likelihood of future change independent of contextual and child characteristics. From the perspective of this inquiry, future research that omits information on the history and timing of significant changes in children's lives will be limited in its capacity to explain their current circumstances.

Suggested Citation

  • Tucker, David J. & MacKenzie, Michael J., 2012. "Attachment theory and change processes in foster care," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(11), pages 2208-2219.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:34:y:2012:i:11:p:2208-2219
    DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.07.020

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. palmer, Sally E., 1996. "Placement stability and inclusive practice in foster care: An empirical study," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(7), pages 589-601.
    2. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-990, October.
    3. Levinthal, D.A. & Fichman, M., 1991. "Honeymoons and the Liability of Adolescence : A New Perspective on Duration Dependence in Social Organizational Relationships," GSIA Working Papers 1991-34, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
    4. Roberto G. Gutierrez, 2002. "Parametric frailty and shared frailty survival models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 2(1), pages 22-44, February.
    5. van Santen, Eric, 2010. "Predictors of exit type and length of stay in non-kinship family foster care -- The German experience," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(10), pages 1211-1222, October.
    6. Christopher Swann & Michelle Sylvester, 2006. "The foster care crisis: What caused caseloads to grow," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 43(2), pages 309-335, May.
    7. Akin, Becci A., 2011. "Predictors of foster care exits to permanency: A competing risks analysis of reunification, guardianship, and adoption," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 999-1011, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Lesch, E. & Deist, M. & Booysen, L. & Edwards, E., 2013. "South African social workers' knowledge of attachment theory and their perceptions of attachment relationships in foster care supervision," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(7), pages 1101-1109.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:34:y:2012:i:11:p:2208-2219. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.