Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Omar G. Gudino, Ph.D.


Adolescent, Caregiver-child relationships, Child welfare, Mental health, Placement change


Objective: Healthy relationships between adolescents and their caregivers have been robustly associated with better youth outcomes in a variety of domains. Youth in contact with the child welfare system are at higher risk for worse outcomes including mental health problems and home placement instability. A growing body of literature points to youth mental health problems as both a predictor and a consequence of home placement instability in this population; the present study aimed to expand our understanding of these phenomena by examining the interplay among the caregiver-child relationship, youth mental health symptoms, and placement change over time. Method: The sample consisted of 1,179 youths aged 11-16, from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, a nationally representative sample of children in contact with the child welfare system. We used bivariate correlations and autoregressive cross-lagged path analysis to examine how youths’ reports of their externalizing and internalizing symptoms, their relationship with their caregivers, and placement changes reciprocally influenced one another over three time points. Results: In the overall models, early internalizing symptoms significantly negatively predicted the quality of the caregiver-child relationship at the next time point, and early externalizing symptoms predicted subsequent placement change. In addition, later externalizing symptoms negatively predicted subsequent reports of relationship quality, and later placement changes predicted subsequent externalizing problems; these relationships were significant only at the trend level (p < .10). The quality of the relationship was significantly negatively correlated with externalizing and internalizing problems at all time points, and all variables demonstrated autoregressive stability over time. Conclusions: Our findings support the importance of comprehensive interventions for youth in contact with the child welfare system, which target not only youth symptoms in isolation, but also the caregiver-child relationship, as a way to improve social-emotional outcomes in this high-risk population.

Publication Statement

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Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Laura A Rindlaub

File size

65 p.

File format





Clinical Psychology, Mental Health