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Biological parent implication as a factor of foster child social devel-opment


Background. French child welfare service places children in foster care when their security, health, education, or even their moral are in danger. Usually, after a legal measure, child enters in foster care system because his parents are judged incompetent. When child lives in foster family, he visits his parents every week or every month. So, he lies at the heart of complex, and often paradoxical, family relationships. With the purpose of analyse child's socio-emotional development, a major question guide this research: Which are the psychological factors that influence quality of social competences of foster child? Several studies on child psychology examine foster child personality characteristics or behaviour adjustment, often in clinical samples. Research on parenting of biological parents is not frequent even though the relationship child-parents is described as essential by social workers. Accordingly, we aim to study the parenting developed by parents parted from their children from parents, foster mother and social worker's perspective. Thus, we hypothesize that parent perception of his own implication, and foster parent and social workers perceptions of biological parents' implication, affect children socio-emotional development.


Method. The sample of this qualitative research was composed by 38 children aged 3 and 4 years old placed in foster care, 32 foster-parents, 36 biological parents (29 mothers and 7 fathers) and 29 social professionals. The socioemotional development of children was evaluated using the "Profil Socio-Afectif" or "Social Competence and Behaviour Evaluation" (Dumas, LaFreniere, Capuano & Durning, 1997). This method consists in a questionnaire with 80 items about adaptation, social abilities or troubles. It was quoted by foster parents. Parent's implication was measured by a "Questionnaire of parent-s implication" or "Questionnaire d'implication parentale" (Euillet, 2007) adapted from the "Parental competences guide" (Steinhauer, 1993). Three different versions of this questionnaire were completed by biological parents, foster-mothers and social workers. They present the same five dimensions basis: interaction parent-child, parenting abilities, feeling of responsibility, disponibilty and effects of foster care. This questionnaires have a validity construct (cronbach alpha: .891 to .944).


Findings. According to "Social Competence and Behaviour Evaluation" criteria, we found that 84% of children have an excellent socio-emotional adaptation. 9% evince internalizing behaviour problems, and 15% externalizing behaviour problems. Results reveal that parents, foster-parent and social worker's representations of parental implication are different, especially with respect to parent-child interactions and parents competences.

Our findings suggest that foster parents representations of biological parent' implication influence social competences and child general socio-emotional adaptation. Furthermore, child's socio-emotional development is affected by mother's perception of her own parental competences. This research propose to professionals who work with foster families many useful elements for their daily labour with children, biological and foster parents. The parent-child relationship must be sustained to contribute to the development of parent's implication and consequently support foster children's well-being.



Dumas, J.E., LaFrenière, P.J., Capuano, F., & Durning, P. (1997). Profil socio-affectif (PSA) Evaluation des compétences sociales et des difficultés d'adaptation des enfants de 2 ans ½ à 6 ans. Paris: Les Editions du Centre de Psychologie Appliquée.

Euillet, S. (2007). Développement socio-affectif et parentalités dans l'accueil familial. Etude du développement des représentations d'attachement et des compétences sociales des enfants de 3 ans puis de 4 ans et analyse de l'implication des parents et de la parentalité de l'assistant familial. Thèse de doctorat Nouveau Régime en Psychologie. Toulouse: Université Toulouse II.

Steinhauer, P.D. (1993). Guide d'évaluation de la compétence parentale. Toronto : Institut pour la prévention de l'enfance maltraitée.


Contacts: Séverine Euillet, Equipe Milieux, Groupes et Psychologie du Jeune enfant, Laboratoire Psychologie du Développement et Processus de Socialisation, 5 allées Antonio Machado 31 058 Toulouse cedex 9, E-mail: severine_euillet@yahoo.fr, Phone 0033-6-22-49-51-58.


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