The Relationship between Sense of Belonging and Well-Being Outcomes in Emerging Adults with Care Experience

Amanda Hiles HOWARD*, Getrude Dadirai GWENZI, Lindsey NEWSOM, Belay T. GEBRU, Nicole GILBERTSON WILKE

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Robust social resources that lead to a healthy sense of belonging are imperative during emerging adulthood. However, young adults with alternative care experience, such as residential or foster care, often lack the social resources necessary to transition to adulthood successfully. Though some research has examined the importance of social resources in this population, less is known about a sense of belonging, which is associated with these social resources. The current study examined the association between care experience, belonging, and well-being outcomes among emerging adults (n = 703) who were separated from their biological parents during care and received alternative care in 16 nations. The presence of belonging was associated with type of alternative care, age at separation, and reason for separation. There was also an association between belonging and well-being outcomes, including homelessness and suicidal ideation. Adults lacking a sense of belonging reported higher rates of homelessness and suicidal ideation, lower life satisfaction, and lower resilience. The study has global implications for enhancing social support for emerging adults with care experience in order to facilitate a sense of belonging as a social resource.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6311
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number13
Early online date7 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • alternative care
  • belonging
  • care leavers
  • emerging adulthood
  • social resources


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