Social support networks of care leavers: Mediating between childhood adversity and adult functioning

Eran P. Melkman, Rami Benbenishty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Care leavers’ social support networks have often been theorized as having a salient role in explaining youths’ functional outcomes and the way these relate to their adverse pasts. The goals of the present study are to examine the association between childhood adversity and adult functioning among youth aging out-of-care, and to explore how attributes of their social support networks mediate this association. The sample consisted of 345 Israeli care leavers (ages 18 to 25), formerly placed in residential or foster care. Standardized self-report questionnaires were administered to assess various attributes of youths’ support networks (e.g., network size or adequacy) vis-à-vis three types of social support (emotional, practical, information and guidance), indices of childhood adversity, and markers of adult functioning (adjustment to post-school settings, economic well-being, and housing difficulties). Structural equation modeling indicated that a significant portion of youths’ functioning outcomes was attributable to childhood adversity. This relationship was fully or partially mediated by social support, across the various types of support and outcomes examined. Network size and network adequacy were the most prominent predictors of functioning; the latter more consistently so. Whereas emotional, practical, and information and guidance supports all significantly contributed to greater adjustment to post-school settings and economic well-being, only practical support was related to fewer housing difficulties. The differential effects of the attributes and functions of care leavers’ support networks on functioning outcomes are discussed in reference to social network literature. The paper also presents recommendations for practice and policy with a focus on social network intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-187
Number of pages12
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Adjustment
  • Care leavers
  • Childhood adversity
  • Economic well-being
  • Housing
  • Israel
  • Social networks
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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