Relationships of young adults with foster care backgrounds: Tensions and management strategies

Elli‐Maria Tahkola, Riitta‐Leena Metsäpelto, Maria Ruohotie‐Lyhty, Anna‐Maija Poikkeus - Child & Family Social Work


The present study focuses on experiences of relational tensions and management strategies in family relationships among 18 young adults with foster care backgrounds who participated in interviews. In the analysis drawing from relational dialectics, three main tensions were revealed in the participants' relationships with birth and foster family members or in their romantic relationships: the dialectics of emotional distance‐closeness, integration‐separation and sameness‐otherness. In addition, the tension of the childhood dialectic of responsibility was identified in this study. The tensions were managed utilizing eight strategies. The findings highlight the importance of giving a voice to young adults who have experienced the complex web of relationships in at least two families and of sensitizing both birth and foster parents and other adults working with foster children and youth to these tensions in relationships.