Camille Danner Touati, Phd Student, Université Paris 8, France
Anne-Sophie Deborde, Researcher, Université Paris 8, France
As they have experienced abuse, children placed in foster care or in institutional care are removed from their family environment and they are given the possibility to create a new relationship with an alternative caregiver: a foster mother or a care worker. The investment of this new caregiver is a major challenge because the experience of a secure attachment is critical for the construction of identity and the overall functioning of the children in the future. The aim of this thesis (1) was to explore the attachment representations of placed adolescents towards their biological mother and their secondary caregiver. Then, we will examine the link between each attachment representations and the subject’s self-esteem. (2) This study also aims to determine whether a kind of placement (foster care or institutional care; placement with siblings or separate placement) would be more favourable than the other to promote a positive representation of the secondary caregiver. (3) Finally, this thesis aims to define the factors of vulnerability affecting the global functioning of the subject placed during childhood. The third part of this thesis is still being developed. The results (1) showed that children had more positive attachment representations to their secondary caregiver to their biological mother. However, the relationship between self-esteem and attachment representations was not significantly different if one considered the mother or the secondary caregiver. In comparison to an institutional placement, the placement in foster family seems to favor the construction of a more positive secondary caregiver’s attachment representation. Moreover, these positive attachment representations were related to self-esteem: the more children were secure with their foster mother and the more their self-esteem was positive. This mechanism has not been identified in institutional care. This result highlights the importance of the availability and proximity of the foster caregiver. Results (2) have shown that the participants placed with siblings show more facilities to accept and control their emotional responses in a negative emotional context. Moreover, they had significantly lower anxiety and depression scores. Furthermore, discriminant analysis showed that two groups could be differentiated from the others by their anxiety level: compared to adolescents placed separately, adolescents placed with siblings were less anxious.
Keywords : Foster care ; Institutional care ; Attachment theory ; Self-esteem ; Emotional regulation