Comparing maltreating and foster families in Italy.


Maltreating and foster families belong to different research areas and have rarely been considered together. This exploratory study compared maltreating and foster families to demonstrate an integrated approach that overcomes the dichotomic view that often separates problematic families from those who have resources. This study had 81 participants: 48 maltreating parents and 33 foster parents and the children who were in foster care. We examined family functioning (FES), adult attachment styles (ASQ) and foster children’s strengths and difficulties (SDQ) in maltreating and foster families to examine the differences and similarities between families. Both types of families had significant differences on the FES and ASQ scales. Maltreating families had a stronger orientation to succeed and a family profile that was more orientated towards independence. Maltreating parents had higher scores on the scale that measured discomfort with closeness than foster families. However, both family types had a high level of confidence. Many foster children had SDQ scores that were in the borderline and problem categories. These components may promote a theoretical view of an integrated model for family and children’s problems that promotes children’s welfare and supports maltreating parents. Practitioners can build on parent’s strengths or protective factors and provide services to address less developed areas.