Details of Thesis

Title Carer-Child Relationships in Permanent Care Programs
Author Alexandris, Maria
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2008
Abstract Over the past 20 years, there has been a steady increase in permanent care placements in Australia, however, relatively little research has been conducted on how to best support this growing population. Little is known about what variables contribute to the development and preservation of positive carer-child relationships. The current study examined the relationship of carer and child variables in permanent care carerchild relationships. In particular, the role that carer empathy, carer parenting style, child emotional and behavioural problems, child temperament, and child resilience played in the prediction of carer-child relationships was investigated. Using quantitative and qualitative approaches, the current study gathered data from a total of 46 permanent carers in Victoria. Participants were permanent carers who had at least one child aged between 3-12 years. Carers were recruited from metropolitan and rural permanent care agencies. Participants completed a questionnaire booklet on their empathy, parenting styles, their relationship with their child, and on child variables including emotional and behavioural difficulties, temperament, and resilience. Thirteen carers also participated in the qualitative part of the study, consisting of an interview that aimed to further target the study’s key variables. It was hypothesised that both carer and child variables would correlate with and predict carer-child relationships and that carer variables would emerge as the strongest predictors. The findings from the quantitative analyses indicated that carer variables were less important in predicting carer-child relationships and only authoritarian parenting was related to less positive carer-child relationships. Child variables, particularly the emotional and behavioural difficulties children manifested, had greater significance in the prediction of carer-child relationships. Qualitative data were consistent with quantitative findings, showing that it was the child’s troubling behaviours which were the most taxing on the development of positive carer-child relationships. Where carers perceived improvements in their children’s behaviours or could recognise positive aspects in their children and their relationships with them, this seemed to support carer-child relationships. From a policy-driven perspective, it is in the best interests of permanent care agencies to connect children and their carers with services and strategies which help promote child adjustment and well-being, whilst simultaneously educating carers on how to most effectively manage the emotional and behavioural challenges evidenced by their children.
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