Hypotheses: Literature Reviews Examples

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: Family, Children, Foster Care, Psychology, Development, Life, System, Age

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/09

Is it more beneficial for a foster child to remain in the system until age 21, versus aging out at 18?

Analysis of Ending Foster Care at 21 versus 18:
The family unit is the most fundamental structure of any society. Although it performs a wide variety of functions, its most important function is related to its objective of raising children. However, it is often the case that the family structure deteriorates and ultimately falls apart, render the children in such environments utterly helpless and in need of care. In such conditions, it is the National Foster Care system that assumes control of the child’s life and extends a helping hand. Children who have lost their parents and/or their support are qualified for a foster care system. They are, depending on the severity of their circumstances, allotted a permanent of a temporary residency in a home that is known as a foster home. Such children are raised by complete strangers. The child’s basic needs then become a responsibility of the foster parents until he/she can govern his/her own life, typically after eighteen years of age. It is important to note that during this time period, the government provides financial assistance to the foster parents for raising the child as well as assuming full command of the child’s legal conditions. The Foster Care system attempts to ensure that any negative experiences of the children are effectively regulated.
Early intervention foster care: A model for preventing risk in young children who have been maltreated. “Prior studies suggest that TFC may be an effective alternative to more restrictive interventions. At a time when the foster care population is burgeoning, and the proportion of very young children in the system is increasing, there is a need for TFC programs specifically designed to meet the needs of maltreated preschooler.” (Rhoades, Chamberlain, Roberts & Leve, 2013)

Based on the analysis of the literature review on ageing out of foster care, two hypotheses can be formulated:
H1: It is beneficial to age out of foster care at 18.
H2: It is beneficial to age out of foster care at 21.
Impact of Foster Care: This part of the essay attempts to analyze and comprehend six levels of impacts. These include (1) Attachment,
(2) Intellectual ability,
(3) Education,
(4) Social Functioning,
(5) Health & Development,
(6) Long-term functioning.Attachment:Attachment theory, first developed during the 1960’s and 1970’s proposed as its basic tenet that children seek protection and support from their primary caregivers and use them as a secure base from which to explore the world. John Bowlby proposed that children who are provided support when they feel threatened go on to develop Secure Attachment patterns. The children who have placed in foster care already come from family backgrounds were they have incurred emotional difficulties (Rhoades, Chamberlain, Roberts & Leve, 2013). Family management and deviant peer association as mediators of the impact of treatment condition on youth antisocial behavior. According to Eddy & Chamberlain (2000), “family management skills and deviant peer association mediated the effect of treatment condition and accounted for 32% of the variance in subsequent antisocial behavior.”
However, upon the selection for foster care, many children continue to experience emotional distress. This is because they are not provided the permanence of an attachment figure required for the development of a secure attachment style. It has been noted that children therefore exhibit symptoms of psychological distress such as crying, anger and clingy behavior. Furthermore, the fact that foster parents are continuously changed, leads to even more attachment disruptions even if the child has started to view the foster parents as primary attachment figures.
Intellectual Ability, Education and Career Opportunities: Chamberlain (1990) in Comparative evaluation of Specialized Foster Care for seriously delinquent youths: A first step, conducted a study to determine the trajectory of delinquent youths being placed in foster homes. It is often the case that children with learning difficulties and mental health problems are selected for foster care as they are not provided with the proper support in their homes. The government provides financial assistance to the foster family to ensure that they are provided with the opportunities for education, special or otherwise. However, children with learning difficulties are routinely bullied in their social environments and coupled with the fact that they do not have a permanent secure base, they develop problems such as low self-esteem, low confidence and consequently, poor work performance.Research has also shown that children from foster homes are more likely to leave their schools and usually do not attain higher education. This can have significantly negative effects on their career prospects as education and skills are the most important requirements in the job market. Therefore, despite their emancipation from foster care, the youths often go on to develop unhealthy lifestyles.It is important to note, however, that some children do indeed make the most out of the services provided, gain scholarships reserved for foster care children and attain employment with the support of career services provided by the National Foster Care system.Health and Development: It has been well documented that a range of health problems, both physical and mental, have been identified in children in foster care and their causes have been attributed to their experiences. Physical problems such as delayed development, stunted growth and other developmental abnormalities can be caused by exposure to abuse. Various studies have also highlighted how children from poor families or the children of drug users develop such issues. Prior to attaining Foster Care, they do not receive proper medical attention and are exposed to drugs in the environments.In addition to the Emotional problems documented earlier, children also go on to develop other mental health issues including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other serious illnesses. Their academic and cognitive functioning, as compared to normal children is poor because of low self-confidence and previous negative experiences. It is therefore no surprise that many empirical studies have shown that children from foster care are more likely to be referred to a psychiatrist and compared to the general population. One model of Child Development by Jean Piaget is widely used to assess the level of Cognitive development in children. The age based model that assesses development at various ages have been shown to be skewed in children living in Foster Care systems.
According to Chamberlain & Reid (1991), “The SFC model is a viable treatment option for severely emotionally disturbed children and adolescents, that cases in the SFC group were placed outside of the hospital more frequently and quickly than cases in the control group, and that once placed outside of the hospital, SFC cases were slightly more successful at maintaining in their communities than were control cases.”Social Functioning: The development of attachment theory and other social psychology models regarding human relationships have shown how the attachment influences in early childhood continue to effect emotional regulation in adulthood. Therefore, now that the infant and childhood experiences have been highlighted, the social experiences of adults and youth also merit attention. The individual is unable to identify with its environment both during foster care and upon leaving it. The fact that he/she does not have secure attachment styles therefore influences social relationships and problems are bound to arise in terms of intimacy as well.
Furthermore, the inability to relate with others, lack of trust in human relationships and occasional disregard of own sentiments and emotions produce feelings of disconnectedness. It has also been noted that the stigma associated with children from foster care in society also impacts the social life of such youth in a negative manner. It is difficult for them to form reliable and secure bonds with friends as their beliefs and attitudes are shaped by their previous experiences. Coupled with such issues, such individuals often feel unable to be accepted as normal members of society and therefore have difficulties in attaining sentiments of associated and belongingness.
According to Moore & Chamberlain (1994), “Currently, there is a severe lack of midrange community-based treatment models for adolescent with severe emotional and behavioral disorders (SED) (Wells & Whittington, 1990). The Treatment Foster Care (TFC) program has the potential to expand the development of such models for these youths.”Ageing out:
Ageing out is a term used in the American culture to refer to those children who leave the formal system of care provided to them till a specific age. Mostly children age out at 18 or 21. Ageing out at both these ages has its pros and cons which we are going discuss in detail.
According to Rhoades, Chamberlain, Roberts & Leve (2013), “An increasing number of children are placed in foster care (i.e., a kin or nonkin family home other than the biological parent) due to experiences of physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse, and/or neglect. Children in foster care are at increased risk for a host of negative outcomes encompassing emotional, behavioral, neurobiological, and social realms”.

Five elements that we will be analyzing are:

[1] Housing
[2] Medical and Health Care
[3] Workforce/College
[4] Independent Living
[5]Coping up with the lack of Support
[6] Networking and Community Development

Ageing out at the age of 18:

During the past decade more than 200,000 teenagers have aged out of the foster care system. They rarely have any family connections or any support system. Hence, no sense of permanence is attached to anything in their lives. This can be considerably tough for the child. Most of the responsibility for preparing a child for ageing out lies on the shoulders of the foster parents. However several foster children have no experience of true familial bonds as their lives are constantly in a flux. They do not get much attention to grow as a person and learn from their surroundings. They are usually very unstable emotionally due to lack of care and availability of love in their lives. They do not experience the strength and the connection of the familial bonds in its true essence. They generally cannot relate to what others might feel regarding their families and often find themselves amazed at the kind of system that has been established and feelings of being an outcaste may develop. Since, they do not grow up like all the other kids, there lacks this sense of belonging and since, many of the foster parents cannot relate to that, and they develop feelings of distrust. (Rhoades, Chamberlain, Roberts & Leve, 2013)
They are generally not given that much attention by their foster parents due to which there is this growing feeling of homelessness inside them. They may be victims of domestic violence as well or they might be witnesses of it but may consider it completely normal based on the kind of values the family is internalizing in them. When children, the victims of extreme negligence, age out of foster care at 18 are usually not very stable. They are not even out of their teen years and are expected to survive in the economic system on their own without any one to support them. They usually end up facing a lot of problems due to several reasons. Many a times they become the victims of sexual abuse. As the basic sense of trust is not developed or properly shaped, they are forced to make interactions in order to survive, which results in them often misjudging people and becoming victims of abuse.
According to Leve, Fisher & Chamberlain, (2009), “Demographic trends indicate that a growing segment of families is exposed to adversity such as poverty, drug use problems, caregiver transitions, and domestic violence”.
They do not have complete and proper education; which means that their ideas and beliefs have not yet been shaped. This allows room for error and miscalculations. Also they are generally unstable that they cannot afford to study any further. This leads to them indulging in criminal activities in order to survive. As the economic system of today is very fast pace and always in a state of competition; it has no room for those who are slow and cannot catch up at the same pace. According to Chamberlain & Reid (1994), “Females were found to have fewer foster parent-reported problem behaviors than their male counterparts during the first month of treatment.”
In today’s world those who cannot find means to make money ultimately turn towards criminal activities. Usually children with no stable family back ground are found guilty of such criminal acts. In a study conducted by Chapin Hall in 2007, the statistics show the ratio of arrested people. Over 55.3% of the males have been arrested since age 18. Similarly over 29.6% of the females have been arrested since age 18. This shows the high level of delinquency in children aging out at 18. They cannot find any stable job and without a proper college degree cannot also enter the mainstream workforce and earn a considerable amount of money. Due to this they cannot find proper housing facilities or proper medical health facilities and they end up neglecting the requirements of their own body. They have difficulty making acquaintances and cannot find proper stable relationships which further aggravate the already existing problems and increases their inclination towards the use of drugs. (Chamberlain & Reid, 1994)

Ageing out at the age of 21:

Ageing out of foster care at age 21 has slightly different outcomes than those at age 18. Based on the study conducted by Chapin Hall (2007), most of the children who had aged out of the foster care had their own places and were living independently. They do not prefer living with their biological parents and even if they have to, they mostly prefer living with their relatives. However even if they are living alone, they are in contact with their parents and reported meeting them very often. Almost 94% of the children reported that they are close to at least one of their biological parents. This indicates that they have people to rely on and make good decisions based on better judgment of the situation and an advice from the elders. Their contact with their siblings is more frequents and mostly fathers are reported as the family members they have the least contact with.
Social support can play an important role in one’s life and help in the transitioning phase to adulthood. However these young adults reported that they have relatively no social support when it came to coping up with adulthood and the concept is very new to them. Both emotional and informational support has been lacking in their lives. They lack any training in education, vocational training, employment or youth development, etc. If they had gotten any training they would have known how to lead a life on their own.
According to Blome, (1997), Courtney et al., (2001) and McMillan & Tucker, 1999, “Among the children who are raised within the system of foster care, there are huge educational deficits”. They do also face material hardships due to lack of education on their part. However they are still better off than those who age out at 18 because, if not all, most of them hold diplomas and can find a job. Their education helps them in making rational decisions and also their jobs ensure their survival in the system on their own. Most of them by this time are usually cohabiting and have at least one baby from the relationship. As they are young adults, they do seek opportunities of creating healthier relationships that will stabilize their lives and help them out as well. Many of them also reported having taken mental health medications and services.
According to Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth: Outcomes at 21 (2007), “Slightly more than three-quarters of the young adults in the Midwest Study reported feeling satisfied or very satisfied with their lives as a whole. More than half reported that life has been better or much better since they exited foster care; relatively few reported that it had gotten worse or much worse. Most also reported feeling fairly to very optimistic about their futures.”


After a careful analysis of both the arguments related to the aforementioned problem, one can conclude that it is beneficial to remain in foster care till the age of 21. This not only gives a person more time to develop his personality but also gives him a strong grounding of who he is and how he will manage once he is independent. One can certainly not deny that there are problems as well, however, the benefits overshadow the negative impacts. A person is more emotionally stable and mentally mature. He is able to deal with circumstances and make decisions that will benefit him not only in the current situation but also in the future. Hence, allowing a child more time to spend within a family circle makes him very aware of the societal norms and the family values that are expected from him. Even if he is denied of care or attention, he is sure to look for it outside the home when he leaves. Not just that, he can also stabilize himself monetarily due to better schooling basis and prolonged chance of getting educated. Hence children should only be allowed to leave foster care once they have passed the teenage phase and can make rational judgments about how they want to proceed in their lives.


Courtney, M., Dworsky, A., Ruth, G., Havlicek, J., Keller, T., & Perez, A. (2007, December 1). Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth: Outcomes at Age 21. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.chapinhall.org/sites/default/files/ChapinHallDocument_1.pdf
Chamberlain, P. (1990). Comparative evaluation of specialized foster care for seriously delinquent youths: A first step. Community Alternatives: International Journal Of Family Care, 2(2), 21-36.
Chamberlain, P., & Reid, J. (1991). Using a specialized foster care community treatment model for children and adolescents leaving the state mental hospital. Journal Of Community Psychology, 19(3), 266-276. doi:10.1002/1520-6629(199107)19:3<266::aid-jcop2290190310>3.0.co;2-5
Chamberlain, P., & Reid, J. (1994). Differences in risk factors and adjustment for male and female delinquents in treatment foster care. J Child Fam Stud, 3(1), 23-39. doi:10.1007/bf02233909
Eddy, J., & Chamberlain, P. (2000). Family management and deviant peer association as mediators of the impact of treatment condition on youth antisocial behavior. Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology, 68(5), 857-863. doi:10.1037/0022-006x.68.5.857
Internal.psychology.illinois.edu,. (2015). A Brief Overview of Adult Attachment Theory and Research | R. Chris Fraley. Retrieved 5 March 2015, from https://internal.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm
Leve, L., Fisher, P., & Chamberlain, P. (2009). Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care as a Preventive Intervention to Promote Resiliency Among Youth in the Child Welfare System. Journal Of Personality, 77(6), 1869-1902. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00603.x
Moore, K., & Chamberlain, P. (1994). Treatment Foster Care: Toward Development Of Community-Based Models For Adolescents With Severe Emotional And Behavioral Disorders. Journal Of Emotional And Behavioral Disorders, 2(1), 22-30. doi:10.1177/106342669400200103
Psychology Today,. (2015). The Foster Care System and Its Victims: Part I. Retrieved 5 March 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201110/the-foster-care-system-and-its-victims-part-i
Rhoades, K. A., Chamberlain, P., Roberts, R., Leve, L. MTFC for High-Risk Adolescent Girls:A Comparison of Outcomes in England and the United States.  Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, 22:435-449, 2013.  ISSN: 1067-828X print/1547-0652 online  DOI: 10.1080/1067828X.2013.788887.
Stukes, S., & B, T. (2004). Meeting the Challenges of Contemporary Foster Care. Children, Families, and Foster Care, VOL. 14(# 1).
Westermark, P., Hannsson, K., Vinnerljung, B. (2008) Does MTFC reduce placement breakdown in foster care? International Journal of Child & Family Welfare, 2008/4, page 155-171. Retrieved 5 March 2015, from http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/focus/pdfs/foc142g.pdf

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