Stockholm university

Research project Foster children as midlife adults

Foster children as midlife adults: For whom and under what circumstances may placement in foster care counteract social and health-related adversity across the life course?

Individuals with experience of foster care have high rates of adverse social and health outcomes. Yet there is little evidence on whom among the children and youth placed in foster care who will do well and who will not. This project is based on longitudinal Swedish register data from ten cohorts including more than 1,000,000 individuals (of which around 2.5 % have been placed in foster care).

We will follow these cohorts from birth (1972-1981) to the age of 37-46 (2018). The aim of this project is to examine for whom and under what circumstances experiences of foster care may counteract risk of health and social problems across adult life. Having a large sample size is of great value since the sheer quantity of data allows us to identify and zoom in on small subsets of the population.

The unique data, combined with recent advances in statistical models for life-course data furthermore enable us to both separately and simultaneously investigate a set of hypotheses related to life-course theories. These hypotheses describe how the social and health development of individuals reflect changes in socioeconomic position across the life course. We will study how these changes co-vary with experiences of foster care and whether the association between foster care and individual development varies according to, for example, multiple childhood adversities, duration of care, and age at placement.

We also address the importance of risk factors that can be influenced through interventions or special support, such as poor school performance, parental bereavement, and problems when leaving care. By systematically performing sex-stratified analyses, we also assess to what extent these associations are gender neutral. Taken together, this will help society, acting as parent, to live up to its promise to provide a better life for children who have experienced severe difficulties during upbringing.

Project members

Project managers

Lars Brännström


Department of Social Work


Anna-Karin Andershed

Professor i psykologi och forskningsledare

Center for Criminological and Psychosocial Research

Ylva Brännström Almquist


Department of Public Health Sciences
Ylva B Almquist

Hilma Forsman


Department of Social Work
Hilma Forsman. Foto: Rickard Kihlström

Anders Hjern

Guest Researcher

Department of Public Health Sciences
Anders Hjern

Bo Vinnerljung

Professor emeritus

Department of Social Work
Bo Vinnerljung. Foto: Eva Dalin