Family Environment Characteristics and Mental Health Outcomes for Youth in Foster Care: Traditional and Group-Care Placements

Katie J. Stone, Yo Jackson, Amy E. Noser, Lindsay Huffhines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Foster care is meant to provide a safe, temporary out-of-home placement for children exposed to maltreatment, yet little is known about how youth and foster caregivers perceive these new foster care environments and how cohesion and conflict within the foster care setting (i.e., traditional or group-care) may be impacting youths’ mental health. It was expected that cohesion would be negatively associated and conflict would be positively associated with youth internalizing and externalizing problems and that placement type (i.e., traditional foster home vs. group-care setting) would moderate the associations. The sample included 481 youth in foster care (Mage = 13.13, SD = 3.10) and their caregivers. Youth completed self-report measures about family conflict, family cohesion, maltreatment exposure, and youth internalizing symptoms. Foster caregivers completed measures on family cohesion, family conflict, and youths’ externalizing symptoms. Results suggested that youth report of family conflict was positively associated with internalizing problems, while caregiver report of family conflict was not associated with youth internalizing or externalizing symptoms. A significant interaction was found between placement type and youth report of family cohesion, indicating that higher family cohesion was associated with lower levels of internalizing symptoms for youth living in traditional foster care homes, but not for those in group-care settings. This study highlights the importance of utilizing multiple reporters, particularly when examining foster care environments. Results showed that family characteristics were differentially associated with mental health outcomes. Findings suggest that family cohesion is particularly salient for internalizing symptoms of youth living in traditional foster homes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Family Violence
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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