Reflections on Care Experiences Among Early, Middle, and Late Adolescents in Residential Care

Shamra Boel-Studt, Taylor Dowdy-Hazlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although most youth served in residential group care are adolescents, empirical theories indicate that youth needs vary at different stages of adolescent development. These differences likely impact adolescents’ experiences and, ultimately, responses to treatment; a neglected research topic that may have implications for residential placement and services. This study explored youth experiences in residential care at different stages of adolescence. A descriptive qualitative content analysis from a sample of 103 youths was used to classify open-ended text into categories among early, middle, and late adolescents. Comments showed similarities and differences across developmental stages in six categories—general views on placement, relationships, needs and supports, safety, autonomy and control, and growth and development. Youth in late adolescents were more contemplative about their time in residential care, with comments reflecting a need for more autonomy, while expressing how residential care has helped with future endeavors and goal planning. Middle and early adolescents’ experiences were more varied. Early adolescents focused on relationships outside of care and discussed support needs differently, compared to middle and late adolescents. Our findings suggest that experiences in residential placements differ in important ways across stages of adolescent development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-111
Number of pages17
JournalDevelopmental Child Welfare
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • Child welfare
  • adolescent development
  • residential group care
  • youth experiences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Health(social science)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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