Exploration of the youth-adult relationship in residential care. Small glimpses from a large sample of youth


  • Charles V. Izzo Cornell University, Ithaca
  • Bridgette N. Aumand Cornell University, Ithaca
  • Brian M. Cash Cornell University, Ithaca
  • Lisa A. McCabe Cornell University, Ithaca
  • Martha J. Holden Cornell University, Ithaca
  • Moyouri Bhattacharjee Cornell University, Ithaca


residential care, youth-adult relationship, careworker qualities


This study examined the perceptions of youth living in residential care about their relationships with the youth care workers who care for them. The data come from an open-ended survey question asking youth to describe the qualities they like about their favorite youth care worker. A total of 738 youth from across 16 agencies participated, and a wide range of topics were described. Using the constant comparative method, we developed a scheme for categorizing care worker qualities and coded all responses to identify the primary themes reported by youth. Eighteen categories emerged including qualities mostly related to interactional style such as engagement, genuineness, flexibility, understanding, respect, and structure. The categories endorsed by youth differed based on their gender, age, and tenure at the agency. Findings from this work can support residential care agencies' efforts to maximize their fit with the needs, preferences, and best interests of the youth they serve.

Author Biography

Charles V. Izzo, Cornell University, Ithaca

College of Human Ecology, Bronfenbrenner Center on Translational Research, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.