Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Youth in foster care experience high prevalence rates of emotional and behavioral problems (Burns et al., 2004; Clausen et al., 1998; Fernandez, 2009; Orton et al., 2009; see McWey et al., 2010; see Pilowsky, 1995) due to a range of risk factors they encounter. Exposure to maltreatment can generally lead to increased internalizing problems (e.g., Avery et al., 2000; Carlson et al., 1997; see McWey et al., 2010), externalizing behaviors (e.g., Prino & Peyrot, 1994; McWey et al., 2010), social problems (e.g., Bolger & Patterson, 2001; Bolger et al., 1998), and poor self-perceptions or self-worth (see Arata et al., 2005; Bolger et al., 1998). Self-concept has been examined with respect to how it may affect youth’s emotional, behavioral, and social functioning in the general population. Research has shown that self-perception can help explain underlying pathways to adaptive or maladaptive outcomes (e.g., Mann et al., 2004). Negative self-concept or self-esteem can mediate the relationship between the experience of stressors and the development of psychopathology. Studies also suggest positive self-concept may buffer against the adverse effects of maltreatment. Positive self-perceptions of competence have been found to promote healthy development and protect against negative outcomes, regardless of the accuracy of the self-perceptions (e.g., Kim & Cicchetti, 2003, 2004; Patterson et al., 1990). However, these effects of self-concept have not been examined among foster youth. The present study sought to examine the mediating and moderating effect of self-concept in the relation between maltreatment and psychosocial functioning (i.e., internalizing problems, externalizing problems, and social problems) during the first year of children and adolescents’ placement in the child welfare system.

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