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Title: The construction of friendship for looked after children
Author: May, Christine
ISNI:       0000 0004 7431 5750
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2018
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Looked After Children (LAC) are associated with poor outcomes, but they also demonstrate resilience and strength, particularly when placed in stable, supportive environments. Friendship is known to support resilience in children and adolescents and may be particularly useful to LAC, but there is limited research into LAC’s experiences of friendship. Objective: This study aimed to explore what LAC value in their friendships in order to understand what support may help them gain the maximum benefits from these relationships. Design: Seven 11 to 16 year olds, living in foster care took part in semi-structured interviews using sociograms to discuss their past, present and ideal friendships, particularly focusing on what they valued and how the friendships changed over time. Findings: Results were analysed using inductive thematic analysis resulting in six themes; “They’re like me”, which had two subthemes; “We like to do the same things” and “We are the same”, “They keep my secrets”, which had two subthemes; “I trust them” and “People finding out I’m in care”, “They spend time with me”, “They help me with my feelings”, “They understand me” and “They’re on my side”. Conclusions: This sample of LAC showed similar values and friendship expectations to other adolescents, and had formed and maintained positive relationships, albeit with some challenges relating to their care status, such as fears of disclosure, placement and school disruption. They provide an example of what can be achieved by LAC in a stable environment, but should not necessarily be considered typical of LAC in general. Practice recommendations include open discussion with LAC about their friendships, disclosure of LAC status and support with friendships with children with other difficulties, who may offer increased understanding. Future research with a wider range of LAC and looking at the costs of friendships is also recommended.
Supervisor: John, Mary Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral