Many adolescents living in residential youth care (RYC) institutions perceive their quality of life (QoL) to be low. Enhancing QoL is thus important, but little is known about the potential contributors to their QoL. Early interpersonal trauma and subsequent removal from home and repeated relocations to new placements are expected to affect mental health and self-esteem. We therefore investigated if domain-specific self-esteem contributed to QoL among adolescents living in RYC institutions over and beyond their levels of psychopathology.
All youth in Norwegian RYC institutions between the ages 12–23 years were invited to participate. Of a total of 98 RYC institutions, 86 participated, and 400 of 601 eligible youths were examined. The participants’ primary contact completed the Child Behavior Checklist to assess psychopathology. The adolescents completed a revised version of the Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents and the questionnaire for measuring health-related quality of life in children and adolescents (KINDL-R).
After adjusting for psychopathology, age, and gender, self-esteem domains uniquely explained 42% of the variance in Qol, where social acceptance (β = 0.57) and physical appearance (β = 0.25) domains significantly predicted concurrent QoL.
The self-esteem domains, social acceptance and physical appearance, add substantially to the explained variance in QoL among adolescents living in RYC institutions, over and beyond the levels of psychopathology. These self-esteem domains may be targets of intervention to improve QoL, in addition to treating their psychopathology.