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Early school leaving by children in out-of-home care: A comparative study of three Nordic countries
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), Sweden.
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Number of Authors: 52018 (English)In: Children and youth services review, ISSN 0190-7409, E-ISSN 1873-7765, Vol. 93, p. 186-195Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Previous studies have reported that children and adolescents who have been placed in out-of-home care for the protection of their safety and welfare face considerably high risks for early school leaving. Our study adds to the literature by comparing the association between children's exposure to placement in care and lack of secondary education (i.e. post-compulsory education after age 16) across three Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, and Sweden. We use data from national registers for children born in 1987, following them until age 23. The datasets for Denmark (N = 55,995, of whom 3056 are in care), Finland (N = 58,855, of whom 1884 are in care), and Sweden (N = 100,152, of whom 3209 are in care) cover the entire birth cohort. To estimate and compare country-specific risks, we calculate average marginal effects from binary logistic regression and adjust the effects for birth mother's socio-economic and health-related background. As expected, the results show that in each country, children placed in care had a significantly higher risk for early school leaving. After adjusting for maternal background, young adults who experienced out-of-home care were 24 to 39 percentage points more likely than their peers never in care to have not completed secondary education. Those placed in care for the first time at teenage were the most likely to have low attainment. In Finland and Sweden, children in care had a similar excess risk for early school leaving, whereas in Denmark the risk was higher. We discuss these results and recommend developing effective interventions to improve the educational attainment of children in care. The difference between Denmark and the other two requires further investigation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 93, p. 186-195
Keywords [en]
Child welfare, Out-of-home care, Educational attainment, Cohort study, Comparative study
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociological Demography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-161008DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2018.06.007ISI: 000445990000023OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-161008DiVA, id: diva2:1255924
Available from: 2018-10-15 Created: 2018-10-15 Last updated: 2020-04-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Out-of-Home Care and Educational Outcomes: Prevalence, Patterns and Consequences
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Out-of-Home Care and Educational Outcomes: Prevalence, Patterns and Consequences
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to examine educational stratification in the context of out-of-home care (OHC; foster family care, residential care) and to place one of society’s most vulnerable groups in the fields of social stratification and family complexity research. About 5% of the Swedish population experience OHC during childhood or adolescence. OHC is not only a matter of protecting children and youth; it is also intended to improve future opportunities and compensate for adverse childhood factors. However, a vast body of international research, including Swedish studies, shows that a substantial proportion of young people from OHC have poor school performance and low educational attainment as adults. Furthermore, this is strongly associated with their high risk of other adverse outcomes in life. To date there are no signs of improvement in this regard, and the disadvantage of having a low education is increasing in today’s knowledge-based society.

Many previous OHC studies have relied on small, local samples, and longitudinal data are often lacking. In this respect, Swedish researchers are well positioned to contribute to the field through research based on our high-quality population registers. The main data source in this thesis – the Child Welfare Intervention Register – covers half a century of OHC data. Based on these data, an overview of OHC prevalence in Sweden and patterns of educational outcomes are presented in the introductory chapter. The thesis further consists of five individual studies investigating different aspects of the transition through the educational system to adult life among children and youth from OHC. Two of the five studies focus on children who spent most of their childhood in OHC and for whom society has assumed a long-term commitment of parental responsibilities.

The descriptive data show that patterns of poor educational outcomes in the OHC population have remained stable as long as they can be followed in the registers. Study I shows that youth who exited long-term care were disadvantaged as compared to youth without OHC experience, both in terms of educational attainment and regarding the strong association between poor school performance and other adverse outcomes in young adulthood. Up to 55% of their excess risks of later psychosocial problems were statistically attributable to dismal school performance. Study II shows that 54% of clients in substance-misuse treatment in the 1980s had been in OHC, half before their teen years and half as teenagers. In this group, OHC was associated with excess mortality during the 30-year follow-up from exit from treatment, with statistical significance mainly for females who had entered OHC before their teens. School failure was more common in the OHC population than for misuse clients without OHC experience, and was strongly associated with the excess mortality of females. Two Nordic comparative studies (Studies III and IV) show that the OHC population had a substantially higher risk of not completing upper-secondary education across countries, and that poor performance in primary school inflicted a greater risk in OHC youth of being NEET in young adulthood than for their peers without OHC experience. Study V shows that the intergenerational transmission of education was weak and inconsistent in the foster care setting, and that living in a highly educated foster family did not have a robust positive effect on foster children’s educational outcomes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, 2020. p. 104
Series
Dissertation series / Stockholm University Demography Unit, ISSN 1404-2304 ; 20
Keywords
out-of-home care, foster care, foster parents, school performance, educational outcomes, intergenerational transmission, Sweden, Nordic countries
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociological Demography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-180704 (URN)978-91-7911-090-1 (ISBN)978-91-7911-091-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2020-05-30, hörsal 3, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10 B, digitally via Zoom, see meeting address at www.sociology.su.se, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-05-06 Created: 2020-04-03 Last updated: 2020-05-26Bibliographically approved

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