Changes in attachment representations for young people in long-term therapeutic foster care.


This article reports on a 1-year follow-up study exploring changes in attachment security of children placed in long-term therapeutic foster care over three data collection time points. A group of eight children (age 14 to 17) were assessed over a period of 1 year using a modified version of the Separation Anxiety Test (SAT). Interviews were also conducted to explore the young people’s and the carers’ experiences of the placements and their personal perspectives of changes. The findings indicated some positive changes in the young people’s attachment security over time, for example, a reduction in extreme reactions and a trust that adults could understand their feelings (PAE – parental accurate empathy). However, despite this PAE, the young people did not expect adults to enact this by offering them support, and this lack of expectation persisted over the 1-year period. Specific differences in relation to placement success were suggested in that young people for whom their placements broke down indicated more initial fearful and aggressive representations of adults. Overall, young people emphasised positive aspects of their placements as including being treated as adults, listened to and made to feel safe.