Background, experience of abuse, and mental health among adolescents in out-of-home care: a cross-sectional study of a Swedish high school national sample

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: To compare experiences for adverse events, especially sexual abuse, and mental health in a group of high school students in out-of-home care with a representative sample of peers of the same age and similar educational attainment living with their parents. Materials and methods: A sample of 5839 students in the third year of Swedish high school, corresponding to a response rate of 59.7%, answered a study specific questionnaire. Data from 41 students living in out-of-home care were compared with data from peers not in out-of-home care in a cross-sectional analyze. Results: Students in out-of-home care had more often an immigrant background and a non-heterosexual orientation, had more often experienced physical and penetrative sexual abuse, and more often sought healthcare for mental problems. Disclosure of sexual abuse was less common, and acts of persuasion or adults' use of their social position was more common among students in out-of-home care. Conclusions: Even where the protective factor ‘senior educational attainment’ is present, risks for abuse and poor mental health are evident for adolescents in out-of-home care. Disclosure of adversity, when it has occurred, ought to be higher among these adolescents with regular contact with social services, but our findings indicate tendencies for the opposite. We therefore suggest routines to be established to screen for adverse life events and mental health actively, along with general and systematic assessments of adversity and mental health during care.


  • Rikard Tordön
  • Carl Göran Svedin
  • Cecilia Fredlund
  • Linda Jonsson
  • Gisela Priebe
  • Gunilla Sydsjö
External organisations
  • Linköping University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
  • Social Work


  • child sexual abuse, foster home care, mental health, Out-of-home care, residential care
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-23
JournalNordic Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date2018 Dec 18
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch