Children in care (CIC) are at a heightened risk of engaging in general antisocial behaviour and serious and violent offending. This observation has been explained in relation to cumulative risk, whereby children and youth in foster care are more likely to be exposed to traditional criminogenic risk factors, and those specific to placement in care (e.g., removal from parental custody, placement shifts among caregivers). However, limited research has been conducted on CIC who have engaged in serious and violent offences, and thus it remains unclear whether these youth are at an increased risk of engaging in antisocial behaviour compared to other serious and violent young offenders who are also often exposed to a multitude of risk factors. This study seeks to yield an improved understanding of CIC engaging in serious and violent antisocial behaviours by exploring three research objectives. First, using a sample of 417 male incarcerated youth in British Columbia, logistic regression is conducted to assess whether CIC differ in terms of exposure to risk factors and antisocial behaviours. The second objective is to explore whether multiple pathways to serious and violent offending can be observed among a subsample of 26 CIC participants with qualitative analysis plotting risk exposures along individual developmental pathways. The third objective uses content analysis to assess whether experiences of the same subsample of CIC are associated with distinctive opportunities or obstacles for intervention success while under supervision in the community. Findings suggest that CIC do not differ significantly in terms of exposure to risk factors or antisocial behaviours from non-CIC. However, multiple pathways to serious antisocial behaviour are identified, thereby suggesting that these youth are not truly homogenous. In terms of opportunities for intervention success, close supervision, greater number of people monitoring behaviours, and positive placement fit were identified as factors unique to placement in care that may contribute to positive outcomes. Further, desire to return to biological family, placement instability, poor placement fit, and geographical location of placements were identified as obstacles to intervention success. Findings are contextualized with use of the developmental perspective and implications for policy are discussed.
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Thesis advisor: Corrado, Raymond
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