Stockholm university

Research project What explains child welfare children’s underachievement in the educational system?

Education is an important basis for children's development and is usually described as a way out of vulnerability. The project deals with the educational careers of a particularly vulnerable group, namely children with experience of community care in the form of placements in foster homes or institutions.

It is well-established that children involved in the child welfare system, here covering both foster and residential care (out-of-home care/OHC), perform very poorly in the educational system. Yet, we know little about how these poor educational outcomes are brought about. Drawing on sociological and epidemiological life-course theory as well as theories of social stratification within the field of educational sociology, the aim of the proposed project is to further our understanding of this issue.

The project will be based on a 60-year follow-up of a 1953 Stockholm cohort, of which around 9 % have had experience of OHC at some point from birth up until age 19. This unique cohort material, combined with recent advances in statistical models for longitudinal data, enables us to both separately and simultaneously investigate a set of hypotheses related to life-course theories on human development. Based on our detailed mapping of the child welfare children’s educational careers, we intend to examine a wide range of mechanisms related to the family and the school, as well as the individual’s social, cognitive, and behavioral development from birth to adulthood.

Taken together, this will help pinpointing when and how policy measures to improve educational outcomes in this group of individuals would be more efficient.

Project members

Project managers

Lars Brännström


Department of Social Work


Ylva Brännström Almquist


Department of Public Health Sciences
Ylva B Almquist

Bo Vinnerljung

Professor emeritus

Department of Social Work
Bo Vinnerljung. Foto: Eva Dalin

Hilma Forsman


Department of Social Work
Hilma Forsman. Foto: Rickard Kihlström


Forsman, H. & Jackisch, J. (2021).

Cumulative childhood adversity and long-term educational outcomes in individuals with out-of-home care experience: Do multiples matter for a population defined by adversity? British Journal of Social Work, doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcab194.

Brännström, L., Forsman, H., Vinnerljung, B. & Almquist, Y. B. (2020).

Educational inequalities in individuals with childhood experience of out-of-home care: What are driving the differences? PLoS ONE, 15(4): e0232061.

Brännström, L. & Stenberg, S-Å. (2021).

Primary and secondary effects on long-term educational outcomes in individuals with experience of child welfare interventions. Child Abuse Review, 30(1): 48-61.

Forsman, H. (2020).

Exploring educational pathways over the life course in children with out-of-home experience: a multi-group path analysis. Children and Youth Services Review, 111, 104852.

Berlin, M., Vinnerljung, B., Hjern, A. & Brännström, L. (2019).

Educational outcomes of children from long-term foster care: Does foster parents’ educational attainment matter? Developmental Child Welfare, 1(4): 344-359.