Time in foster care and children's developmental status

Deborah Madeline Matthews, Fordham University


This two-part study investigated how foster children's problem behavior, adaptive behavior, intelligence, educational achievement, development, and speech/language change over the first two years in foster care. Given the minimal and contradictory previous research about time in care, this was an exploratory study without a hypothesizing about direction of change. Part I utilized a cross-sectional approach. Archival scores on the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist, Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery, Bayley Scales of Infant Development, and/or speech and language specialist ratings were collected for 293 foster children. Part II employed a longitudinal approach. Child Behavior Checklist and/or Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales were administered to foster parents of 101 foster children. Overall, improvement over time was evidenced in adaptive behavior and language use production and comprehension for children under 6 years of age. Overall deterioration occurred in reading achievement for children over 6 years of age, Bayley mental development index for children under 3 years of age, and problem behavior for children 2 to 3 years of age. Intelligence, math achievement, and language content and form comprehension and production were unaffected by time in care. For problem behavior (total, internalizing, externalizing) and adaptive behavior (composite, communication, daily living skills, socialization), longitudinal analysis further identified fluctuating patterns of change. No significant pattern was found for adaptive behavior in the area of motor skills. These patterns differed for younger and older children's adaptive behavior; age differences in patterns could not be analyzed for problem behavior due to small sample size. Other variables were also identified as being significantly related to the test measures including ethnicity predicting adaptive behavior and intelligence, special education predicting both reading and mathematics achievement, and birth toxicology and parental substance abuse predicting content and form of speech/language. Possible explanations for findings were provided and results were compared to those of prior studies. Recommendations were made for future research, and implications were discussed for service provision.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Matthews, Deborah Madeline, "Time in foster care and children's developmental status" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9730102.