Previous research has shown the harmful effects that out of home care can have on children. Specifically, institutionalized children experience high rates of developmental and psychological problems, and therefore special attention is needed so that a fast intervention can be achieved and further complications can be prevented. This paper focuses on building the psychological and behavioural profile of children living in four residential care units in western Greece, in respect to gender, age and nationality. 153 children (88 children in residential care and 65 children rearing in their families) participated in the study. The children age ranged from 6 to 18 years. Children’s behavioural profile was assessed through Child Βehaviour Checklist 6–18 (CBCL 6–18) and was afterwards analyzed with respect to variables such as age, gender and nationality. Children in residential care had higher rates of clinical/borderline range symptoms in Internalizing, Externalizing and Total Problems scale than their counterparts rearing at home. Specifically, they were more withdrawn/ depressed and tended to indicate more rule-breaking behaviour. Both genders showed vulnerability in Internalizing behaviour scale, but girls presented higher rates than boys in the clinical range in Externalizing behaviour scale (22% vs 12%) and Total Problems scale (24% vs 5%). Finally, adolescents in residential care exhibit more internalizing symptoms in clinical range than younger children (22% vs 0%), whereas children of Greek nationality were more vulnerable than children of other nationalities, especially in externalizing behavioural symptoms (28% vs 6%). Our study suggests that children in residential care are at high risk for developing mental health issues. The finding that children are more withdrawn and depressed underlines the possible difficulties in establishing confident relations with peers and adults and can destruct their orientation towards social reality, exhibit mistrust to other people and cause insecurity for their future. There is a lack of longitudinal studies investigating children who have lived in institutions in Greece. Such studies would possibly reveal protective or aggravating parameters that have a positive or negative impact on the development of those children and the transition to adult life.

Key words: Mental health problems, institutionalized children, Child Behaviour Checklist, residential child care, emotional–behavioural problems, childcare center.

Ou. Andreopoulou, S. Skiadopoulos, Z. Drakou, Ph. Gourzis (page 321)

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