The Mental Health of Children in Out-of-Home Care

Michael Tarren-Sweeney


Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2008;21(4):345-349. 

In This Article


Various research findings demonstrate that children in care have complex symptomatology that is not well captured by present classifications of mental disorders. This suggests a need for detailed research into the characteristics and meaning of complex attachment-related and trauma-related disturbances,[31•] and some re-appraisal of present taxonomies. Increased symptom severity is accompanied by increased symptom complexity that is not adequately conceptualized in terms of co-morbidity. This is particularly apparent among children who manifest severe attachment difficulties.[6,26] There is also a need for further research on the development of children in care who enjoy good mental health in spite of their exposure to severe adversity, with a view to identifying resilience mechanisms. Clinical practice is hampered by a lack of validated measures and treatments for these complex problems. Notwithstanding these impediments, it is argued that present best-practice assessments and interventions are conducted by clinicians and teams that have specialist knowledge of children in care, and who employ an ecological approach to assessment.


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