Publications

Foster children´s attachment behavior and representation: Influence of children´s pre-placement experiences and foster caregiver´s sensitivity

Bovenschen, Ina/Lang, Katrin/Zimmermann, Janin/Förthner, Judith/Nowacki, Katja/Roland, Inga/Spangler, Gottfried (2016):
Foster children´s attachment behavior and representation: Influence of children´s pre-placement experiences and foster caregiver´s sensitivity.
In: Child Abuse and Neglect
Jahrg.: 51, S. 323-35

Although the majority of foster children have been exposed to early adversity in their biological families and have experienced one or more disruptions of attachment relationships, most studies surprisingly found foster children to be as securely attached as children in low-risk samples. However, attention has been paid almost exclusively to attachment formation in young children up to two years of age, and the majority of studies solely investigated attachment behavior whereas few is known about foster children's representations about attachment relationships. To extend findings on attachment in foster children and its predictors, our study examined both attachment behavior and representations in foster children aged between 3 and 8 years. Diverse potential predictors including child variables, birth parents' variables, pre-placement experiences, and foster caregiver's behavior were included in the analyses. Results revealed that foster children showed both lower attachment security and higher disorganization scores than children in low-risk samples. Attachment behavior and representation were found to be widely independent from each other. Different factors contributed to attachment behavior and representation: whereas foster children's attachment behavior was mainly influenced by foster parents' behavior, pre-placement experiences did predict hyperactivation and disorganization on the representational level. The results indicate that, when intervening with foster families, it seems crucial to focus not exclusively on the promotion of secure attachment behavior but also to develop interventions enhancing secure and organized attachment representations.

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