Exploring young people’s experiences of foster care using a social capital approach
: Disrupted networks and continuing bonds

  • Justin Rogers

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This PhD study explored the day to day lives of young people living in foster care in the United Kingdom. This study utilises Bourdieu’s (1986) conceptualisation of social capital, which has been described as a useful heuristic as it focuses on practices and processes (Morrow 1999) within networks. One of the original contributions of this thesis is its application of Bourdieu’s theory as an analytical framework to explore young people’s experiences of foster care. The study employed qualitative methods to gather rich, contextualised data. Ten young people, aged between twelve to fourteen years old, participated in the research and each of the participants were interviewed on two occasions. Findings are presented across three chapters and they highlight the ways young people in foster care both preserve and build their access to social capital. Firstly, this includes the ways in which the young people are actively engaged in practices to manage and preserve their relationships and as a result their access to social capital. Secondly, findings show that young people in foster care experience stigma by virtue of having the status of being ‘in- care’, and in order to minimise this, the young people actively managed their spoiled identity (Goffman 1968), which allowed them to maintain access to social capital. Thirdly, the findings show that despite the experience of disrupted networks and multiple placement moves, given the opportunity, the participants demonstrated their ability to persevere in their attempts to start again, which built their access to social capital. This thesis offers a particular utility for the discipline of social work, by providing a way of understanding and theorising how young people continually work, in both prosaic and at times heroic ways, to minimise the disruption to their relationships, networks and their subsequent access to social capital.
Date of Award25 Feb 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorIan Butler (Supervisor) & Louise Brown (Supervisor)


  • young people
  • social capital
  • Bourdieu
  • social work practice
  • social work theory
  • care
  • Foster Home Care

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