Non-parental care in childhood and health up to 30 years later: ONS Longitudinal Study 1971-2011

Emily T. Murray, Rebecca Lacey, Barbara Maughan, Amanda Sacker

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12 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Children who spend time in non-parental care report worse health later in life on average, but less is known about differences by type of care. We examined whether self-rated health of adults who had been in non-parental care up to 30 years later varied by type of care. METHODS: We used longitudinal data from the office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study. Participants were aged <18 and never-married at baseline of each census year from 1971 to 2001. Separately for each follow-up period (10, 20 and 30 years later), multi-level logistic regression was used to compare self-rated health outcomes by different care types. RESULTS: For combined census years, sample sizes were 157 896 dependent children with 10 years of follow-up, 166 844 with 20 years of follow-up and 173 801 with 30 years of follow-up. For all follow-up cohorts, longitudinal study members who had been in care in childhood, had higher odds of rating their health as 'not good' vs. 'good'; with highest odds for residential care. For example, 10-year follow-up odds ratios were 3.5 (95% confidence interval: 2.2-5.6) for residential care, 2.1 (1.7-2.5) for relative households and 2.6 (2.1-3.3) for non-relative households, compared with parental households after adjustment for childhood demographics. Associations were weakest for 10-year, and strongest for 20-year, follow-up. Additional adjustment for childhood social circumstances reduced, but did not eliminate, associations. CONCLUSION: Decades after children and young people are placed in care, they are still more likely to report worse health than children who grew up in a parental household.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1121-1127
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean journal of public health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2020


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