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"Never actually had a chance": Toward a social psychology of high risk youth exclusion Open Access


Other title
Adult Attachment Interview
high risk youth
moral development
foster care
developmental psychology
child development
child welfare
social exclusion
social psychology
young adults
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Anand, Anju H
Supervisor and department
Buck, George (Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Pei, Jacqueline (Educational Psychology)
Pederson, David (Psychology)
Rinaldi, Christina (Educational Psychology)
Buck, George (Educational Psychology)
Hess, Gretchen (Educational Psychology)
Smith, Veronica (Educational Psychology)
Department of Educational Psychology
Psychological Studies in Education
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Former foster youth often experience an array of serious challenges during their young adult years. Problems such as homelessness, school drop-out, and mental health and drug problems have been attributed to the requirement that foster youth lose their supports from child welfare as they approach the legal threshold of adulthood in many North American jurisdictions (i.e., they “age-out” of their eligibility for services as children). In this dissertation, I explore how this process of aging-out specifically leads to such poor outcomes for former foster youth. I also explore how the process of being excluded from supports and resources, that are often seen as necessary for healthy child development at earlier periods in the youths’ lives, affect the development of their capacities to survive on their own. A social exclusion framework was utilized to explore how multiple forms of social and economic disadvantage, throughout the youth participants’ lives, (e.g., poor youth labour markets, expensive rental accommodations, absence of consistent caregivers and inadequate educational and mental health supports) interacted to prevent former foster youth from being able to develop the life and work skills needed for independent living. The results suggest that not only did such exclusionary events and processes compromise skill development, but they also interfered with the development of feelings of psychological efficacy and agency that would likely have enabled the young people to stay committed to vocational and moral identity roles that they felt represented their “true” selves, such as being a law-abiding student or employee. It would seem that commitment to such identities could have permitted the youth to feel as though they belonged in mainstream society, as opposed to belonging in marginalized subcultures, characterized by illicit drug use and other high risk activities. Case studies of four youth were comprised of extensive biographical information that I obtained through conversational interviews as well as a structured interview (Adult Attachment Interview) and questionnaire (Trauma and Attachment Belief Scale) that yielded in-depth information on adverse childhood events such as abuse.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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