Previous studies on effectiveness of therapeutic residential youth care (TRC) have indicated that, compared to short-term effects, long-term effects are less convincing. Moreover, there is limited evidence on how TRC achieves treatment goals: TRC remains too much of a “black box”. To gain durable treatment results we need to know more about how results are achieved, rather than investigating the achieved results itself. One of the factors associated with this process of change is the social climate within TRC institutions. Up until now, no literature reviews about how social climate is affected by institution and youth characteristics, and how social climate affects outcomes has been performed.
To provide an overview of the literature on associations between determinants and social climate and between social climate and outcomes in TRC.
We searched multiple databases with a predetermined set of search criteria in the years 1990 and March 2017. We identified 8408 studies and reduced the final sample to 36 studies. Most studies were empirical assessments with a correlational design and were conducted in Western countries.
Effect sizes for the studies ranged from small to large and varied between and within studies. Most associations were found between social climate and positive outcomes. The most mentioned social climate constructs were: an open climate, support, and autonomy.
The results are challenging to summarize due to variations in the concepts and operationalizations of social climate. The organizational culture must support a social climate which is supportive, structured and caring, and provide youth with an environment to grow. A positive social climate must constantly be evaluated and recreated based on combining the perspectives of residents, staff and external perspectives.