Peculiarities of school competence of children in residential care and children living at home

Kristina Samašonok, Rita Žukauskienė


Findings from several studies provide indications about the multidimensional structure of competence, its continuity over time and the interrelations among competence domains and emotional/behavioural problems. Findings from the several studies are suggesting that the competence in childhood and adolescence have at least three distinct dimensions (Masten et al., 1995). These dimensions reflect developmental tasks related to academic achievement, social competence and conduct and have strong continuity, especially rule-breaking versus rule-abiding conduct, over time. Experience of negative events in the childhood, disadvantageous conditions for growing up limit the possibility of learning to behave in a social acceptable way. Negative experience in the childhood is related to emotional and behavioural problems in later life and complicates the adaptation in the school environment. Residential care units have a symbolic barrier to the social life of the outside world. Children spending a part of their life in an institution will be profoundly socially shaped by that particular circumstance. Residential children have little power to affect their conditions of living. Others control their life, the routines of daily life are often strict, and there is a lack of variety in activities. In most units, the children wake up, have their meals and most activities at scheduled times.
This investigation aims to explore the peculiarities of competence, and behavioural and emotional problems of children and adolescents in residential care, according to teachers ratings in comparison to children who live in full families. Teacher Report Form (Achenbach, 1991) is used in this research to assess the child’s competence and to evaluate behavioural and emotional problems. Teachers' ratings were obtained for 66 children from institutionalised children, and for 69 children who live in full families. The results showed that children and adolescents living in institutions could be characterised as having lower levels of competence and lower academic achievement. They also experience higher levels of attention and social problems, aggressive behaviour, and anxiety/depression. Statistical analysis of data is showing that emotional and disruptive behaviour problems such as aggression, social withdrawal, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity are closely related to child’s competence. Overall, the lack of competence, low academic achievement, emotional and behavioural problems can be related with former negative experience and current institutionalisation.


children in residential care; school competence; emotional and behavioural problems

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"Social Work" ISSN online 2029-2775 / ISSN print 1648-4789