SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Objectives

Existing research studies suggest that children who are looked after by the State experience high levels of mental health difficulties and underachieve in many other domains. Few studies, however, aim to reflect the heterogeneity of these children and those who are performing well may be under-represented in the findings. This study aims to provide a more representative picture, offering novel data on resilience.

Design

A multidimensional, multiple-rater population-based study of looked after children.

Method

The entire population of looked after children aged 7–15 years (= 193) in one local authority was assessed in core domains; mental health, emotional literacy, cognitive ability and literacy attainment. Measures included the Strength and Difficulties questionnaire, Emotional Literacy Assessment and Intervention Inventory, and the British Ability Scales. The children's data were compared with general population norms and existing research studies. The incidence of resilience, defined by the fulfilment of positive exception criteria, was recorded. Children fulfilling positive exception criteria were then compared to the remaining children on key factors.

Results

The looked after children performed less well in all domains compared with general population norms. Sixteen per cent of children met the positive exception criteria. Positive performance on individual measures varied from 34% to 76%. A statistically significant association was found between positive exception classification and two factors; parental contact and mainstream schooling.

Conclusions

In general terms, this study supports the findings of previous research studies. However, evidence of positive exceptions across and within all domains cautions against overgeneralization of findings. The findings also implicate parental contact and mainstream education in the promotion of resilience.