Date of Award

Fall 1997

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Committee Director

Constance J. Pilkington

Committee Member

Joseph Galano

Committee Member

Deborah Green

Committee Member

Joy Kannarkat

Committee Member

Barbara Winstead


Many researchers have explored variables that appear to influence a foster child's placement, and both researchers and theorists have noted the need for an overarching understanding of the variables that may affect a foster child's care and progress. This study examined four interlinking subsystems of foster care: the foster child, the family of origin, the foster parent, and the social worker. Data regarding relevant variables for each of these subsystems were analyzed by means of canonical correlations, factor analyses, a multiple regression, and zero-order correlations. Participants in the study were 42 foster children from the Chesapeake and Suffolk Departments of Social Services, each of whom completed the Children's Reports of Parental Behavior-56 (CRPB-56; Margolies & Weintraub, 1977) and their social workers, each of whom completed a questionnaire designed for this study. Data regarding the foster mothers were provided by the social workers, and data regarding the families of origin were gathered from the foster children's charts using a form designed for this study. Results revealed that variables associated with the foster child and the foster mother were those most significantly associated with the quality of the relationship between the two. Specifically, a better fit between the foster mother and the foster child, better foster mother parenting skills, greater foster mother empathy, and the foster mother's greater awareness of and ability to deal with the foster child's losses were the foster mother variables associated with better foster mother-foster child relationships and greater improvement by the foster child within the placement. Greater foster child competencies, fewer "acting out" behavioral problems and, to a lesser extent, fewer "acting in" problems and earlier ages at the time of first removal from the family of origin were the foster child variables associated with better relationships and greater improvement within the placement. The findings of this study suggest that better selection and training of foster mothers, as well as interventions aimed at increasing foster child competencies and decreasing behavioral problems would result in improved foster care relationships and greater progress by foster children within their placements.


A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculties of The College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.


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