Foster care youth and the development of autonomy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Homelessness, unemployment, and food insecurity are the unfortunate reality for many young adults who age out of the foster care system. These rates remain high even for youth who participate in independent living programmes prior to exiting foster care. These high rates of poor outcomes suggest that many foster care youth are inadequately prepared to transition to adulthood. In order to improve services for youth preparing to age out of foster care, it is important to identify factors that contribute to these adverse outcomes and that could become targets of further interventions. One such factor, an underdeveloped sense of autonomy, may predispose youth to poor outcomes such as limited educational attainment, unstable housing, and unemployment. At least in Western cultures that value individualism, interventions that foster the development of autonomy during adolescence could potentially improve outcomes for youth in foster care. This article aims to review factors that promote the development of autonomy and discusses the unique barriers to autonomy development faced by youth in foster care. I conclude with several intervention strategies that could facilitate the development of autonomy in foster care youth and recommendations for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-271
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Review of Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2 2020


  • Adolescent
  • autonomy
  • child
  • development
  • foster care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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