Fostering relationships : the organisation of attachment in foster care : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University
Externalising behaviour is known to compromise stability and continuity of care for children who have been maltreated, and who may enter statutory care with insecure or disorganised attachments. The objective of this study was to increase understanding of the significance, function and development of enduring relationships between substitute caregivers and children in need of care and protection. The study examined the contribution of foster parent relational qualities and specifically whether adult attachment dimensions are implicated in the potential for security and stability in fostered children. It also sought to identify children's behaviour that may contribute to the development of the relationship. In the Eastern Bay of Plenty, 24 fostering relationships were examined via self report questionnaires and interviews with foster parents, children and social workers. The children in care were aged between 6 and 12 years. Bi-variate correlations and linear regression analyses indicated that secure attachment in adults contributed significantly to felt security and potential stability for children and was also associated with the children's increasing capacity for self regulation and the children's own ratings of self worth. Findings overall appear to indicate that the organisation of attachment in foster care in this study is a function of both adult and child factors. In particular, the potential for stability and security was greater for children who were expressive of distress at the time of transition into the placement and who could subsequently initiate relationship interactions, compared to avoidant children. Results are discussed in terms of practice models for intervention and foster care.