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Attachment theory and change processes in foster care

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

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190740912002940
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Children and Youth Services Review.

    Volume (Year): 34 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 11 ()
    Pages: 2208-2219

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:34:y:2012:i:11:p:2208-2219
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/childyouth

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    1. Christopher Swann & Michelle Sylvester, 2006. "The foster care crisis: What caused caseloads to grow," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(2), pages 309-335, May.
    2. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-90, 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. 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.
    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. Roberto G. Gutierrez, 2002. "Parametric frailty and shared frailty survival models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 2(1), pages 22-44, February.
    7. 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.
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