Predictors of Better Functioning among Institutionalized Youth: A Systematic Review

Anna W. Wright, Simron Richard, David W. Sosnowski, Wendy Kliewer - Journal of Child and Family Studies



The majority of research on youth in institutional care has focused on negative developmental outcomes. However, experiencing institutional care does not guarantee detrimental results. A growing body of literature has examined outcomes among youth who have spent a period of time in institutional care with the goal of identifying positive functioning, or development in line with children reared in more traditional family homes. The goal of this paper was to review and critique the literature examining predictors of better-than-expected adjustment of children who have experienced institutional care.


A literature search was conducted across PsycINFO, PubMed, CINAHL Complete, and Web of Science, following the PRISMA guidelines. Studies conducted with youth residing in full-time institutional care at the time of the study, and which examined at least one positive outcome were included. A rating system was used to evaluate and compare study quality across manuscripts.


A systematic search of the literature returned 38 unique studies for review. Findings support the possibility of typical adjustment for youth who experience institutional care, the presence of protective factors, and the success of interventions in improving outcomes within this setting.


The reviewed studies suggest that better-than-expected outcomes are possible amongst youth residing in institutional care when certain factors are present. However, many limitations exist within the current research. Future directions for advancing the study of youth adjustment within institutional care are discussed.