This article draws on a study of 38 male and female care-leavers in Belgium (age 21–66 years). Life history interviews were conducted to investigate how they experienced being in care, how they perceived the impact of this on their later life course, and how they reflected on shifts in their narratives as their lives progressed. The results shed light on the subjective impact of being in care on the lives of care-leavers. The interviews reveal three narratives of the self, shaped by the experience of being in care: the collective self, the problematic self and the resilient self. The collective self and the problematic self engender feelings of stigmatisation and a search for the lost self or new self throughout the subsequent life course. Because the impact of being in care on narratives of the self change over time, a long-term perspective is needed. Our research reveals the importance of a subjective view on adult outcomes. To enhance the wellbeing of care-leavers and to contribute to positive development of the self, policy, practice and research should pay more attention to internal and subjective processes of care-leavers in youth care. The results reveal similarities with processes described in the desistance literature, suggesting new research opportunities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-100
Number of pages21
JournalLongitudinal and Life Course Studies
Issue number1 Special Issue
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2018

    Research areas

  • Care-leavers, Life history research, Narratives of the self

ID: 36109284