Hello womb mummy! Coherence and fragmentation in mental representations of self, relationship and belonging in looked after preschool children, according to continuity, commitment and disruption in care arrangements in infancy

Maria Mögel, Researcher, Marie Meierhofer Institut für das Kind, Zürich, Switzerland 

Earlier identification of high-risk situations in early baby-parent relationships leads to more frequent placements for very young children. But out-of-home placements in early childhood represent a deep interference in children’s personality development. That is why there are considerable uncertainties regarding the criteria for out-of-home placements that are in the best interest and welfare of these little children. Besides interventions to optimize attachment in early foster relationships, favorable child development outcomes seem to be connected with a sense of mutual belonging, experienced by children and their foster parents (Schofield 2005, 2009; Wendland & Gaugue-Finot, 2008; Bernard & Dozier, 2011). Because a first conscious sense of belonging emerges already between the ages of 3 and 5 years, we wanted to find out more about how looked after preschool children establish belonging to their complex relational worlds. We therefore adapted the well established completion task method MacArthur Story Stem Battery (Bretherton & Page 2004) to the life situations of looked after children and applied it in our qualitative study with 18 children aged 3 to 6 who live in foster families or institutional care.  Preliminary findings show the importance of foster carer’s sensibility for the children’s own perspective on fragmentation and belonging. In the workshop, examples of children’s narratives (Videoclips) will be presented in comparison to information retained from interviews with caregivers and questionnaires on fragmentation or coherency in the child’s life context.

Key-words: Preschool Children, Belonging, Coherency, Fragmentation

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