institutionalization

Length of time in institutional care may influence children's learning

February, 2010

A study of internationally adopted 8- and 9-year-old children has found those adopted from institutional care performed worse on some cognitive tests.

A study involving 132 8- and 9-year-old children, some of whom had been adopted into U.S. homes after spending at least a year and three-quarters in institutions in Asia, Latin America, Russia and Eastern Europe, and Africa, while others were adopted by the time they were 8 months old into U.S. homes from foster care in Asia and Latin America, having spent no or very little time in institutional care, has found that those adopted early from foster care didn't differ from children who were raised in their birth families in the United States. However, those adopted from institutional care performed worse on tests measuring visual memory and attention, learning visual information, and impulse control -- but not on tests involving sequencing and planning. The findings suggest that specific aspects of cognitive function may be especially vulnerable to postnatal experience.

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Foster care associated with improved growth, intelligence compared to orphanage care

April, 2010

A study involving healthy institutionalized infants from six Romanian orphanages has found that those randomly assigned to a foster care program showed rapid increases in height and weight, and that this was associated with better caregiving quality and significantly improved verbal IQ.

A study involving 136 healthy institutionalized infants (average age 21 months) from six orphanages in Bucharest, Romania, has found that those randomly assigned to a foster care program showed rapid increases in height and weight (but not head circumference), so that by 12 months, all of them were in the normal range for height, 90% were in the normal range for weight, and 94% were in the normal range of weight for height. Caregiving quality (particularly sensitivity and positive regard for the child, including physical affection) positively correlated with catch-up. Children whose height caught up to normal levels also appeared to improve their cognitive abilities. Each incremental increase of one in standardized height scores between baseline and 42 months was associated with an average increase of 12.6 points in verbal IQ.

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