Unraveling the foster care effect: An examination of criminal outcomes

Date created: 
Developmental life-course criminology
Foster care
Offending trajectories
Serious, violent, and chronic offenders

Youth who are dually involved in both foster care and criminal justice systems represent a small minority of individuals with multi-problem risk profiles. Indeed, prior research has found that foster care youth are disproportionately more likely to continue a chronic level of offending in adulthood (Yang, McCuish, & Corrado, 2017). However, the nature of this relationship remains theoretically underexplored, and empirically underexamined. Extant research suggests that adverse childhood experiences have prevailing effects beyond the developmental period of childhood, and thus longitudinal research is required to further elucidate the effects of foster care on offending. The current thesis was guided by three theoretical frameworks under the developmental life-course criminology paradigm (propensity, developmental, and life-course theories). Using data from the Incarcerated Serious and Violent Young Offender Study, the criminal offending trajectories of 678 incarcerated youth were examined. A history of foster care placement was predictive of a high rate chronic offending trajectory, and this relationship was independent of hypothesized moderating variables including gang involvement, negative self-identity, substance use versatility, and parental maltreatment. Findings suggest greater need for ongoing support for foster care youth in their transition to adulthood.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Senior supervisor: 
Evan McCuish
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.