Continuity and discontinuity in the transition from care to adulthood

Tehila Refaeli*, Katharina Mangold, Anat Zeira, Stefan Köngeter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This paper focuses on care leavers' experiences of their transition from care to adulthood. Using a social pedagogical perspective, we explore continuity and discontinuity in their life course as central aspects of support in the transition process. Using biographical narratives of three young people with different paths of transition from public care, we argue that a successful transition to independent living involves a complex interplay of continuity and discontinuity. Our analysis suggests a typology of (discontinuity patterns in the transition to adulthood: (i) creating continuity, (ii) transforming continuity, (iii) discontinuity by breaking up continuity and (iv) enabling continuity by discontinuity. Current discourse in social work research values stability in care and continuity in the transition from care as a main strategy for successful transition. This perspective on the efforts of professionals and institutions, emphasising placement stability, disregards the young people's own efforts to create (discontinuity in other aspects of their life. These, we found, can lead to positive changes. Our results suggest that, to enhance care leavers' agency to cope with transition processes, social work practice should strive to understand the client's biographically driven strategies of creating (dis)continuity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)325-342
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2016.


  • Care leavers
  • Continuity
  • Discontinuity
  • Stability
  • Transition to adulthood


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