Correlates of optimal behavior among child Welfare-involved children: Perceived school peer connectedness, activity participation, social skills, and peer affiliation

Darcey Merritt, Susan M. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Understanding the association between children's behaviors and their perceptions regarding the quality of school friendships is useful for intervention strategies focusing on the interpersonal networks of children involved with the child welfare system. Rarely are measures of the strength of peer relationships assessed as a protective factor for maltreated children in the context of understanding their behaviors. This research investigates the link between these youth's expressed relational experiences and nonproblematic behavior. Analyses were conducted on 1,054 children (ages 11-17) from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II (NSCAW II) dataset. Utilizing a factored measure of perceived school friend connectedness, children's behaviors were predicted using Generalized Ordered Logistic regression analyses. Results demonstrated stronger school friend connectedness is a protective factor in that, children who perceive strong peer connections at school are more likely to classify below the problem behavior threshold than those with weaker peer connections. Further, children with increased social skills; fewer deviant peer affiliations; and those who take responsibility in part-time jobs and chores are more likely to display normative behaviors. Compared with all other types of maltreatment, physically abused children are significantly less likely to display behaviors below the problem range. Moreover, physical abuse has a negative impact on the protective nature of strong peer connections. Attention should be given to supporting children's perceived positive friendships, developing social skills, and encouraging participation in part-time jobs (e.g., babysitting, paper routes) as protective factors associated with nonproblematic behaviors, rather than problematic behaviors. Implications for service delivery are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-494
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2015



  • Behaviors
  • Child welfare
  • Peer connectedness
  • Physical abuse
  • Social skills

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this