Ecological disruptions and well-being among children in foster care

Lauren A Hindt, Scott Leon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Bronfenbrenner’s framework highlights the importance of considering ecological systems to understand child well-being. Children entering foster care often experience disruption across systems. Yet, prior research has focused on specific disruptions linked to outcomes. This longitudinal study examined the impact of multiple ecological disruptions (i.e., changes in or separation from siblings, friends, school, church, community) on children’s internalizing symptoms and externalizing behaviors over time. This study included 211 children between the ages of 6 and 13 years (M = 10.23, SD = 2.37; 55.0% female; 57.3% African American). Children entered foster care for up to four reasons: Neglect (73.9%), physical abuse (29.4%),dependency (10%), and/or sexual abuse (9.5%). Most of the children experienced a change in school (64.0%), 46.9% were separated from siblings, 25.1% lost friends, 12.8% experienced community disruptions, and 10.0% were separated from church. Hierarchical Linear Modeling was employed to examine the association between ecological disruptions and longitudinal internalizing symptoms and externalizing behaviors, while controlling for baseline internalizing and externalizing, demographic variables (i.e., child age, gender, and race), and maltreatment severity. Maltreatment severity, along with school and community disruptions related to the presence of internalizing symptoms. Loss of friends was associated with the absence ofexternalizing behaviors, while community disruption was associated with the presence of externalizing behaviors. This study suggests that maintaining children’s connections to their school and community is important for well-being. Under certain circumstances, separation from friends may relate to improved behavioral functioning. Future research should explore additional and interacting facets of children’s ecological systems and related outcomes

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the Children?s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Grant 90C01053). The Institutional Review Boards from The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and Loyola University of Chicago approved the study. We have no conflicts of interest to disclose

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Ecological disruptions and well-being among children in foster care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this