Foster youth reportedly face unusual and negative life circumstances and outcomes due to being placed in out-of-home care. Foster care provides a resource for substitute caregiving which can range from archaically institutional to warm and familial. Foster care is a transient system which alters what is normative for youth relative to what mainstream youth experience, especially in adolescence. Being out of control of their lives and futures serves to create vulnerability for foster youth in the area of sexual and reproductive health. Lack of clarity within the child welfare agency regarding responsibility for imparting necessary, relevant information to foster youth affects their ability to make decisions regarding dating and sexual behavior. Foster youth often make decisions regarding sexual behavior and reproductive health in the absence of adequate, relevant and factual information and/or sound parental advice. This information is needed to facilitate decision making for foster youth which will affect their sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Policies and practices for providing foster youth with information regarding normative developmental behavioral expectations, such as dating and sexual behaviors are unclear or inconsistent. The current study utilized in-depth interviews to examine how foster youth learn about and are socialized to normative developmental processes such as dating and sexual behavior. This study used purposive samples of social workers, foster alumni and foster parents in Southern California. Literature on socialization around dating and sexual behavior has largely focused on mainstream youth and have rarely used foster youth samples. Multiple aspects of communication create difficulties which may become compounded by the context and culture of foster care. Key informants provided meaningful accounts of socialization within the context of foster care. Eight themes -Vulnerability and Decision Making; Resources and Access; Adolescence: Between Two Worlds; Collaboration, Liability and Risk; Foster Care Experience; Independent Living Programming; Sexual Socialization Practices and Relationship - emerged from the data and highlight the processes of communication which occur to facilitate this aspect of socialization for foster youth. This study found that communication processes for social workers, foster parents and foster alumni were hampered by systemic issues, usually not mandated by policy and occurs mostly in response to unwanted behavior, questions or directives.

LLU Discipline

Social Policy and Social Research


Social Work and Social Ecology


School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Wilson, Colwick M.

Second Advisor

Buckles, Beverly

Third Advisor

Jones, Jenny

Fourth Advisor

Montgomery, Susanne B.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Foster children - Mental health; Adolescent; Health behavior; Sexual Behavior; Foster Home Care; Child Welfare;

Subject - Local

Developmental Behavioral Expectations; Health Outcomes; Normative Developmental Processes; Socialization



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives