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A psychosocial exploration of the lifelong impact of being in care as a child and resilience over a life span

Guest, Yvon

A psychosocial exploration of the lifelong impact of being in care as a child and resilience over a life span Thumbnail


Yvon Guest


Care experienced adults (adults who were in foster care, kinship care, residential care or were adopted) are assumed to be more vulnerable than the general population across numerous domains: educational underachievement, unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, difficulties with parenting and homelessness. The current, dominant conception of resilience defines resilience as positive adaptation to adversity and a dynamic interaction between the individual and the environment.
Research aims
1. To understand the lived experience of having been in care and the impact of this experience over the life span.
2. To explore the way in which care experienced adults construct their resilience, in other words, how they talk about their vulnerabilities and strengths.
3. A further aim was to contribute to the task of developing an adequate theory of resilience and resilient processes.

A life span approach was adopted to explore the lived pre-care, in-care and post-care experience. A grounded theory approach grounded the participants’ own constructions of their resilience into the data. A psycho-social approach was employed to address such deficits as perceiving the environment and the individual as largely separate spheres. To move beyond this separation and to look at the ways in which the inside and the outside constantly affect each other. Psychoanalytic theory around trauma was employed in the analysis to offer a deeper understanding of how individuals manage traumatic experience.

1. The experience of being in care had the potential to be emotionally toxic and overwhelming or containing and supportive, and its effect typically lasted throughout the life span.

2. Participants thought about their resilience first, in terms of periods in their life when the struggle for stability and emotional or physical survival dominated and periods in their life when there was greater stability and fewer struggles. Second, for the participants in my research the ability to negotiate a path through such struggles for survival or maintain a position beyond survival was the result of the dynamic interaction between inner and outer world resources and threats.

3. My findings offer new possibilities for conceptualising resilience, grounded in the participants’ own constructions and integrated with a robust theoretical discipline - psychoanalytic thinking around concepts such as cumulative trauma, the management of traumatic experience, unconscious methods for structuring experience and learnt strategies that are employed as defence mechanisms.


Guest, Y. A psychosocial exploration of the lifelong impact of being in care as a child and resilience over a life span. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publicly Available Date Jun 5, 2019
Keywords psycho-social narrative, care leavers, resilience trauma
Public URL
Award Date Nov 16, 2015


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