Objectives The extent to which differences in childhood experiences of public care are related to adult psychosocial outcomes is unknown. This study aimed to estimate associations between childhood experiences of the public care system with emotional and behavioural traits at age 30 years.
Methods Participants included 10 895 respondents at the age 30 survey of the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) who were not adopted and whose care history was known. Two estimation models were employed to determine whether public care and placement patterns were associated with adult psychosocial outcomes. Analyses were adjusted for individual, parental and family characteristics in childhood.
Results Cohort members with a public care experience reported lower childhood family socio-economic compared to those in the no public care group. After adjusting for confounding, exposure to both foster and residential care, longer placements and multiple placements were associated with more extensive adult emotional and behavioural difficulties. Specifically, residential care was associated with adult criminal convictions (OR 3.09, 95% CI 2.10 to 4.55) and adult depression (1.81, 1.23 to 2.68) compared to no public care placement. Multiple placements were associated with low self-efficacy in adulthood (3.57, 2.29 to 5.56). Admission to care after the age of 10 was associated adult criminal convictions (6.03, 3.34 to 10.90) and smoking (3.32, 1.97 to 5.58).
Conclusion Children who experience public care have impaired well-being as adults. Older age at admission, multiple care placements and residential care are associated with worse outcomes.
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