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Children in foster care need well-being interventions

Children in foster care are more likely to have poorer subjective well-being.
Adolescent well-being

About three quarters of looked after children live in foster care and often have poor educational and health outcomes. However, there is also evidence that foster care can be protective. This study investigated the quality of interpersonal relationships for this group.

A cross-sectional, population-based health behaviour and lifestyle survey was completed by 32,479 secondary school students (aged 11-16 years) in Wales in 2015/16. Statistical analysis compared those in foster care with their peers who were not in care.

Young people in foster care had significantly higher rates of substance use (tobacco, cannabis, alcohol and mephedrone) and poorer subjective well-being than those not in foster care. They also had significantly poorer relationships with peers and teachers, higher rates of bullying and dating violence (controlling, abusive and aggressive behaviour in a romantic relationship).

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About three quarters of looked after children live in foster care and often have poor educational and health outcomes. However, there is also evidence that foster care can be protective. This study investigated the quality of interpersonal relationships for this group.


Young people in foster care had significantly higher rates of substance use. Picture: iStock

A cross-sectional, population-based health behaviour and lifestyle survey was completed by 32,479 secondary school students (aged 11-16 years) in Wales in 2015/16. Statistical analysis compared those in foster care with their peers who were not in care.

Young people in foster care had significantly higher rates of substance use (tobacco, cannabis, alcohol and mephedrone) and poorer subjective well-being than those not in foster care. They also had significantly poorer relationships with peers and teachers, higher rates of bullying and dating violence (controlling, abusive and aggressive behaviour in a romantic relationship).

Poorer relationships with teachers, experiences of bullying and dating violence all had a significant correlation with an increased risk of substance use and poorer subjective well-being. The authors suggest that mental health interventions to improve well-being in young people in foster care should include a focus on supporting healthy social relationships.


Long SJ, Evans RE, Fletcher A et al (2017) Comparison of substance use, subjective well-being and interpersonal relationships among young people in foster care and private households: a cross sectional analysis of the School Health Research Network survey in Wales. BMJ Open. 7, 2, e014198. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014198.

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