Date of Conferral







Stephanie Cawthon


Foster and adopted children with special needs have high rates of placement instability. This has been associated with their increased risk of having special needs, particularly reactive attachment disorder which results from severe disruptions in early relationships. Child welfare agencies report inadequate knowledge of specific placement predictors and assessment measures, although research has shown that placement duration is partly a function of successful parent-child match. Using Bowlby's attachment theory as the theoretical framework, this quantitative study examined the contributions of foster and adoptive parents' own attachment characteristics, the child's type of special need, and the child's age at the time of placement in predicting placement duration. A convenience sample of 108 foster and adoptive parents completed three self-report instruments: the Parental Bonding Instrument measuring parental care and protection, the Relationship Scales Questionnaire measuring avoidance and anxiety related to relationships, and a researcher-created demographic questionnaire. Multiple regression analysis was used to examine whether parental attachment characteristics, age at placement and type of special need affect the dependent variable of placement duration. The overall model significantly predicted child placement duration in foster or adoptive homes. Reactive attachment disorder status and the child's age at the time of placement contributed significantly to the prediction model. Implications for social change include the expeditious termination of parental rights, and the need for early, well-matched permanent placement, facilitated by child welfare agency use of objective attachment measures.