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Perceived social support and quality of life among adolescents in residential youth care: a cross-sectional study.

  • Author(s): Singstad, Marianne Tevik;
  • Wallander, Jan Lance;
  • Greger, Hanne Klæboe;
  • Lydersen, Stian;
  • Kayed, Nanna Sønnichsen
  • et al.
Abstract

Background

Residential youth care (RYC) institutions aim to provide care and stability for vulnerable adolescents with several previous and present challenges, such as disrupted attachments, wide-ranging adverse childhood experiences, mental health problems, and poor quality of life (QoL). To the best of our knowledge, the present study is the first to provide knowledge of the associations between perceived social support and QoL and to explore the potential moderating effect of perceived social support on QoL for adolescents who have experienced maltreatment and polyvictimization.

Methods

All RYC institutions with adolescents between the ages 12-23 in Norway were asked to participate in the study. A total of 86 institutions housing 601 adolescents accepted the invitation, from which 400 adolescents volunteered to participate. The Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Interview was used to gather information on maltreatment histories and degree of victimization; the Kinder Lebensqualität Fragebogen was used to measure QoL through several domains (overall QoL, physical well-being, emotional well-being, and self-esteem); and the Social Support Questionnaire was used to measure perceived social support. Linear regression and independent samples t-test were used to study the associations between perceived social support and QoL as well as the potential moderating effect of perceived social support in the association between maltreatment history and QoL.

Results

Perceived social support was positively associated with QoL for both girls and boys, with domain-specific findings. A higher number of different types of support persons was associated with overall QoL, emotional well-being, and self-esteem for boys, but only with self-esteem for girls. Individual social support from RYC staff and friends was associated with higher QoL for girls. However, perceived social support did not moderate the association between maltreatment history and reduced QoL for either sex.

Conclusions

This study emphasizes the importance of maintaining social support networks for adolescents living in RYC, the crucial contribution of RYC staff in facilitating social support, and the potential value of social skills training for these vulnerable adolescents. Furthermore, a wider range of initiatives beyond social support must be carried out to increase QoL among adolescents with major maltreatment and polyvictimization experiences.

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