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Child Abuse Negl. 2007 Mar;31(3):295-310. Epub 2007 Apr 17.

Predictors of depressive symptoms among foster caregivers.

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  • 1School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1207 W. Oregon Street, Urban, IL 61801, USA.



The main purposes of this study were to determine (1) the prevalence of depressive symptoms among foster caregivers, (2) the social-demographics, risk factors, and social support predicting depressive symptoms, and (3) whether social support buffered the effects of the risk factors in the Illinois Foster Caregivers Study.


Telephone interviews were used to collect data from a sample of 189 foster caregivers in the State of Illinois. Interviewers pretested the survey instrument, which included valid and reliable instruments on depressive symptoms and adult report of childhood maltreatment, an important risk factor for depression. Multivariate ordered logistic regression models were estimated.


The foster caregivers exhibited few depressive symptoms, with only one respondent scoring in the clinical range. Contrary to past research on the general population, caregivers reporting higher income were at an increased risk of exhibiting depressive symptoms. The three risk factors-experiencing less than excellent or very good health, childhood maltreatment, and insufficient time to carry out responsibilities-were related to higher levels of depressive symptoms. Foster caregivers who perceived their support group as helpful had a decreased risk of reporting depressive symptoms. We found no evidence that social support buffered the effects of the risk factors.


The results indicate that foster caregivers were adequately screened for depression, but suggest that assessing and providing assistance for health problems, trauma from childhood maltreatment, and insufficient time to meet responsibilities might decrease depressive symptoms. Facilitating and enhancing the helpfulness of foster caregiver support groups also might decrease development of depressive symptoms.

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