In this chapter we consider the progress of the most disruptive children in our sample. These children would probably once have been placed in institutional care but, because of the forces described in Chapter 3, find themselves these days in the foster care system. For the purposes of this chapter, disruptiveness has been defined as a minimum of two placement breakdowns due to behaviour over the life of the study. We set criterion at two breakdowns because of the high rate of false positives recorded in case files (see also Chapter 12). In other words, it was common for social workers to record ‘disruptive behaviour’ as the reason for terminating a placement when the situation was either more complex than that or was merely a case of incompatibility between child and foster carer. However, when disruptive behaviour was mentioned as the cause on more than one occasion, the problem of false positives disappeared and a sub-group of fifty children clearly satisfied the selection criterion.
Overall, the disruptive group was older than the rest of the sample (M =12.26 years, SD = 2.33 versus M = 10.35, SD = 3.57), t (233) = 4.53, p < 0.001, but membership of the disruptive group was not associated with gender, ethnicity, origin (rural versus metropolitan) or length of placement history. A second series of analyses examined whether the problems identified within the disruptive group at intake differed from the rest of the sample. This analysis showed that disruptive children were no more likely to be victims of abuse or to have physical, intellectual or psychiatric disabilities. As expected, however, disruptive children were more likely to be in care because of their problematic behaviour, χ2 (1) = 17.89, p < 0.001 (86 per cent versus 53 per cent for the rest of the sample), and less likely to be in care for reasons of parental incapacity, χ2 (1) = 5.97, p < 0.05 (18 per cent versus 36 per cent). Apart from age and problem(s) at intake, univariate analysis