Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

MA in Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

Andrea Bergman

Second Advisor

Elissa J. Brown


High rates of youth in the child welfare system (CWS) experience placement instability, or frequent moves between household, institution, or placement (Fisher et al., 2013). Placement instability has been shown to predict subsequent internalizing symptoms regardless of the maltreatment type, severity, or frequency experienced by the child in foster care (McGuire et al., 2018). Frequent moves between biological parents, foster or kinship caregivers, or group homes may detrimentally affect youth’s social support networks, which are known to serve as a protective factor for maltreated children and adolescents (Folger & Wright, 2013). The current study aims to examine longitudinally whether perceived support from current primary caregivers and/or peers mediate the link between number of home placement moves and internalizing symptoms in youth referred to the child welfare system. It was hypothesized that there would be significant indirect effects from placement instability to internalizing symptoms via both perceived current caregiver support and perceived peer support. Secondary data analysis was performed using data collected from 1,333 adolescents as part of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Wellbeing (NSCAW). Perceived current caregiver support was assessed using project-developed questions and perceived peer support was measured using an adapted version of the Children’s Loneliness and Dissatisfaction Scale (Asher et al., 1984). A structural equation model (SEM) was utilized to test whether there were indirect effects of placement instability (reported by the child’s caseworker) between baseline and Wave 3 (18 months after initial CWS investigation) and internalizing symptoms at Wave 4 (36 months after initial CWS investigation) via perceived current caregiver support and perceived peer support (both measured at Wave 3). Results showed a significant indirect effect from placement instability to internalizing symptoms via current caregiver support only. Training and intervention implications for biological parents and substitute caregivers involved with the child welfare system are discussed.