Maltreatment and youth self-representations in residential care: The moderating role of individual and placement variables

Maria Manuela Calheiros, Carla Silva, Joana Nunes Patrício - Children and Youth Services Review


The objective of this study was to explore the effects of previous maltreatment on current self-representations (i.e., the attributes used to describe oneself) of youth in residential care and the moderating role of gender, age, number of previous placements and length of placement in residential care. The sample was composed of 809 adolescents and youths in residential care. The youth completed the self-representation questionnaire for youths in residential care (SRQYRC). In order to analyze the impact of previous maltreatment on self-representation, retrospective accounts of previous maltreatment experiences were used, and a set of multiple regression analyses were conducted. Results of multiple regressions suggest previous experiences of maltreatment contribute to youth’s self-representations. Specifically, youth that experienced sexual abuse reported higher levels of negative self-representations (i.e., negative valence attributes, such as aggressive, sad, misfit, neglected) while youth that experienced physical and psychological abuse, emotional and educational maltreatment, and neglect in terms of physical provision reported less positive self-representations (i.e., positive valence attributes, such as nice, intelligent, cherished). Some of these associations were moderated by gender, age, number and length of placements in residential care. These results underline that the type of maltreatment has a differential impact on youth’s self-representation dimensions and that placement stability (i.e., without moving the youth other residential care placements), and the continuity of care in the same residential care unit may protect the self-representations of youth with previous experiences of abuse and neglect.