Diverse trauma profiles of youth in group care settings: A cluster analysis Academic Article uri icon

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  • Background

    Many adolescents in group care have experienced higher rates of traumatic event exposure, behavior problems, and severe trauma sequelae compared to those outside of group care. Yet, little research has examined from a person-centered perspective their diverse trauma profiles and corresponding service needs.


    This exploratory study aimed to examine the heterogeneity of trauma-related profiles among youth in group care to highlight potential distinct service needs among subgroups.


    Data from the Maltreatment and Adolescent Pathways Study identified 96 randomly selected youth (14-17 years) in Canadian group care settings who completed a battery of self-report measures. Cluster analysis was employed to reveal common patterns of maltreatment and trauma symptoms among subgroups, further described and validated by externalizing behaviors (substance use, risky sexual behavior), internalizing symptoms (global mental health, anger), and personal/parental demographic factors.


    Four distinct clusters emerged: (1) no/low maltreatment, low trauma; (2) moderate physical and emotional abuse, moderate trauma; (3) moderate-severe maltreatment, low trauma; and (4) severe maltreatment, high trauma. Clusters 1, 2, and 4 reflected 'dose-response' relationships between maltreatment and trauma symptoms; Cluster 3 was characterized as 'resilient'. Females were highly over-represented in Cluster 4, echoing previous research.


    Findings align with previous research confirming high incidence of maltreatment, internalizing, and externalizing problems among youth in group care, but extends to emphasize the importance of providing trauma-informed services tailored to their variable, complex presentations. Limitations and suggestions for group care settings to provide this wide range of services at program and individual levels are discussed.

publication date

  • October 2021