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Interventions to support reproductive and mental health among care leavers: A systematic review

Bogen-Johnston, Leanne, Edelman, Natalie L., Sellers, Ruth (2024) Interventions to support reproductive and mental health among care leavers: A systematic review. Adoption & Fostering, 48 (1). pp. 82-104. ISSN 0308-5759. E-ISSN 1740-469X. (doi:10.1177/03085759231212496) (KAR id:105493)


Compared to other teenagers, young care leavers tend to have poorer sexual/reproductive and mental health; mental health difficulties may increase risk for poor sexual/reproductive health. This systematic review addresses a gap in knowledge regarding the effectiveness of existing interventions that support care leavers’ sexual/reproductive health (e.g., contraception, pregnancy choices, early parenting). Eight published articles spanning six interventions were eligible. Interventions were associated with improvements in a range of sexual/reproductive health measures (e.g., sexual health knowledge; knowledge of where to get support; attitudes to sexual health practices), with some indicative improvements in self-esteem. However, some studies suggested these improvements may not be sustained. Interventions tended to include a broad age range, with limited programmes specifically aimed at care leavers. While some programmes focused on attitudes toward reproductive health and pregnancy (i.e., contraception), we identified no programme focusing on parenthood choice. We also identified no sexual/reproductive health programme that targeted or assessed associated mental health problems, despite evidence of associations between sexual health and mental health difficulties. Findings suggest that care leavers may benefit from specific sexual/reproductive health supports, but further evidence is needed. Findings also indicate a need for more holistic supports that integrate mental health supports with reproductive/sexual health and consider care leaver decision-making.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/03085759231212496
Additional information: For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission.
Uncontrolled keywords: Law, Sociology and Political Science, Social Psychology, Health (social science)
Subjects: H Social Sciences
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2024 14:10 UTC
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 14:36 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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