Sexual Health and Communication Between Foster Youth and Their Caregivers

Published:October 05, 2022DOI:



      Foster youth are at increased risk for negative sexual health outcomes and rarely receive the information or social/familial support needed to reduce risks. Foster and kinship caregivers report lacking the information and skills needed to effectively talk to youth in their care about sexual health. In a sample of caregivers from 2 large urban jurisdictions, our goals were to: 1) describe caregiver sexual health variables including communication and monitoring characteristics; and 2) assess associations between self-reported emotion regulation and caregiver-youth conflict and these variables.


      We administered surveys to foster and kinship caregivers in New York, New York and Los Angeles, California. Surveys assessed caregiver emotion regulation, caregiver-youth conflict, sexual/reproductive health knowledge, communication expectations and behaviors, and caregiver monitoring/youth disclosure. We generated descriptive statistics for all variables (aim 1) then performed multivariate regression analyses for aim 2.


      Our sample included 127 foster and kinship caregivers who were primarily female (92%) and African American (55%). Most reported having >4 years of caregiving experience with foster youth (66%). On average, caregivers answered sexual health knowledge questions correctly 68% of the time. Caregiver-youth conflict was the only variable significantly associated with assessed sexual health variables; it was inversely associated with percent correct on the knowledge scale, outcomes expectations, number of topics discussed, and monitoring/disclosure.


      Our study suggests that caregiver-youth conflict behaviors are related to sexual health knowledge, communication, and monitoring variables. Further prospective and longitudinal investigation is warranted to better characterize the complex relationship between these variables.


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