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Influence of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Behavioral and Emotional Functioning and Social Context on Social Competence in the Foster Care Youth Population

  • Author(s): Jones, Rasheda D'Amber
  • Advisor(s): Waters, Catherine M
  • et al.
Abstract

ABSTRACT

Influence of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Behavioral and Emotional Functioning and Social Context on Social Competence in the Foster Care Youth Population

Rasheda D’Amber Jones

As compared to the general youth population, foster care youth are particularly vulnerable because of the number and chronicity of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which have been associated with emotional and behavioral functioning. Social competence is believed to be the single most predictor of successful transition from adolescence to adulthood. Yet, little is known about social competence, a protective mechanism for adolescent development and adult maturity, in foster care youth. Within the context of the Affective Social Competence model, the two specific aims of this descriptive, correlational cross-sectional study were to describe social competence, emotional and behavioral functioning and ACEs of youth in foster care, taking into consideration their sociodemographic characteristics and the foster care context, and explore the relationship between youth’s social competence and ACEs, emotional and behavioral functioning, sociodemographic characteristics and the foster care context.

The sample of 136 foster care youth was recruited from the San Francisco Bay Area Court Appointed Special Advocate Association. Youth completed the Interpersonal Competence Scale. Their Court Appointed Special Advocate completed the Child Behavior Checklist to assess youth’s emotional and behavioral functioning, report youth’s ACEs and provide information about youth’s sociodemographic characteristics and foster care context. Results indicate youth experienced two to three ACEs, scored slightly above the standardized norms for emotional and behavioral functioning, and had a moderate level of social competence, neither deficient nor exceptional. Latino youth had significantly more emotional and behavioral problems and White and female youth had significantly lower social competence.

Regression analysis suggests social competence was significantly related to youth’s sociodemographic characteristics, but not to their personal experiences nor the foster care context. Youth who were younger, male and African American had significantly better social competence. Sociodemographic distinctions appear to inform youth’s social competence. A tailored approach as opposed to a one-size approach may be a more precise method to improve social competence in the foster care youth population. Adolescent, school and public/community health nurses need to assess youth early in the foster care process in order to create a social competence profile that can be assessed over time as they transition from adolescence to adulthood.

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