Positive Change Following Adversity and Psychological Adjustment over Time in Abused Foster Youth

Christine E. Valdez, Ban Hong Phylice Lim, Christopher P. Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many foster youth experience maltreatment in their family-of-origin and additional maltreatment while in foster care. Not surprisingly, rates of depression are higher in foster youth than the general population, and peak during ages 17–19 during the stressful transition into adulthood. However, no known studies have reported on whether foster youth perceive positive changes following such adversity, and whether positive change facilitates psychological adjustment over time. The current study examined components of positive change (i.e., compassion for others and self-efficacy) with depression severity from age 17 to 18 as youth prepared to exit foster care. Participants were youth from the Mental Health Service Use of Youth Leaving Foster Care study who endorsed child maltreatment. Components of positive change and severity of abuse were measured initially. Depression was measured initially and every three months over the following year. Latent growth curve modeling was used to examine the course of depression as a function of initial levels of positive change and severity of abuse. Results revealed that decreases in depression followed an inverse quadratic function in which the steepest declines occurred in the first three months and leveled off after that. Severity of abuse was positively correlated with higher initial levels of depression and negatively correlated with decreases in depression. Greater self-efficacy was negatively associated with initial levels of depression and predicted decreases in depression over the year, whereas compassion for others was neither associated with initial depression nor changes in depression. Implications for intervention, theory, and research are discussed.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalChild Abuse & Neglect
StatePublished - Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Child maltreatment
  • Depression
  • Foster youth
  • Growth model
  • Perceived benefits
  • Posttraumatic growth


  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry
  • Psychology

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