• Camilla Præsius Dodensig
  • Camilla Holst Christensen
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
Inspired by a project done during our 9th semester, this thesis centers around the development of children who have experienced neglect and therefore have been placed into foster care. The 9th semester project revolves around a boy, whom we call Niklas, who despite early trauma and neglect has overcome a lot of diversity and now considers himself lucky and happy despite the repercussions of neglect. In the foster family, he experiences new relations while at the same time becoming part of a community, which are factors that he has ascribed as reasons for his positive development. This leads us to the following research question:

How can relations and communities in a foster family today in Denmark contribute to a positive emotional and social development among children who, like Niklas, have been victims of neglect?

This question is in focus throughout the thesis, which takes form as a theoretical thesis. To be able to undertake a nuanced discussion that may have a practical impact, the foster care system and legislation are presented before the different theories to set a framework for the development of the thesis. The theories applied are widely focused within a cultural psychological frame, but are supplemented by the attachment theory, which still has a strong presence in the Danish tradition of foster care. Thus, the development of the attachment theory is represented in the theory chapter, where it is taken into the modern day guided by a cultural theoretical state of mind. Afterwards, the more originally focused cultural theories follow: The ecological model of human development, community psychology, the theory of social pedagogical fellowships, the notions of acknowledgement and contracts respectively, resilience, socio-cultural tracks of development and, lastly, the notion of trust. These lead to two separate discussions about the meaning of relations and communities, where the theoretical possibilities are highlighted: For instance, the emotional development of a child benefits from relations due to the possibility of developing affect regulation and mentalization, breaking expectations of rejection to build a self-worth and the restoration of trust in others. It is argued that new relations in the family may have a positive impact without having to replace the original attachment figures. The family as a community adds an additional layer to the development, which especially affects the social development in aspects such as learning to manage oneself socially in groups and avoiding countercultures as a sense of belonging can be established when the child and its perception is recognized. The community is depended on the relationships that the child establishes with members of the groups, and activity is an important component in both relations and communities. Through activity, focus is removed from a deficit-focus on the child alone, which is important in our approach, and instead moved to the potential of development furthered by the social environment surrounding the child.
The child is embedded in diverse systems, which have to cooperate and be in harmony with each other to fulfill the full potential of the child’s development. This is related to the question of the possibility of implementing findings from the first two discussions in practice, which is the focus of the third section of the discussion. This section sheds light on some limitations of the theoretical basis. It revolves around a discussion about the balance of the foster family’s approach, which consists of a professional, personal and private perspective. Society places a lot of focus on the professional aspect, which we argue for instance could benefit from knowledge about the rules in place to ensure that is does not become the cause of unnecessary distraction. In general, we discuss what it means to let the family live as normal a life as possible and let the child get as much normalcy, stability and continuity as possible, which is challenged by some legal acts. Another discussion is related to the practical aspects, as we take a look at our entire process and consider our selections and deselections, as well as the impact they have on the results of this thesis. Here, we amongst others point to the fact that our discussion could be supplemented by further research in form of qualitative studies like observations of the children’s and families’ lives.
Finally, the thesis concludes that the relations and community under the right circumstances can have an important impact on the life and development of the child. Results are considered with a focus on the possibility of the child being able to undertake a learning process that can ensure a positive outcome despite having experienced neglect.
Publication date31 May 2018
Number of pages139
ID: 280132940