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Foster Care Safety and the Kinship Cue of Attitude Similarity

39 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2008 Last revised: 27 Feb 2014

David J. Herring



This article brings behavioral biology research on attitude similarity as a kinship cue to bear on the laws, policies, and practices surrounding the placement of children in foster care. The basic logic of the article relies on the nature and power of kinship cues. Individuals perceive others as kin through fallible, often unconscious mechanisms. Because these mechanisms are fallible, individuals may come to believe that unrelated persons are kin.

Once a cue gives rise to the perception of kinship, the individual who acquires this perception about another person is more likely to treat that other person favorably, providing important benefits to this other person. This prosocial behavior could certainly benefit foster children. More specifically, if foster parents perceive their foster children as kin, they may provide better care, likely reducing incidents of maltreatment. Attitude similarity serves as a kinship cue. Individuals who share attitudes on a variety of items are more likely to treat each other favorably.

This article explores how public actors may be able to construct a kinship cue that elicits prosocial behavior by matching foster parents with children who share their attitudes.

Keywords: foster care safety, kinship cue, behavioral biology, attitude similarity, prosocial behavior, pro-social, maltreatment

Suggested Citation

Herring, David J., Foster Care Safety and the Kinship Cue of Attitude Similarity. Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, Vol. 7, P. 355, 2006; U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research. Available at SSRN:

David J. Herring (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

6958 Reynolds Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15208

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