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

  • Author / Creator
    Anand, Anju H
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. 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.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Specialization
    • Psychological Studies in Education
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Hess, Gretchen (Educational Psychology)
    • Buck, George (Educational Psychology)
    • Pei, Jacqueline (Educational Psychology)
    • Pederson, David (Psychology)
    • Rinaldi, Christina (Educational Psychology)
    • Smith, Veronica (Educational Psychology)