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Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 101–145 | Cite as

Age at Adoption from Institutional Care as a Window into the Lasting Effects of Early Experiences

  • Megan M. JulianEmail author
Article

Abstract

One of the major questions of human development is how early experience impacts the course of development years later. Children adopted from institutional care experience varying levels of deprivation in their early life followed by qualitatively better care in an adoptive home, providing a unique opportunity to study the lasting effects of early deprivation and its timing. The effects of age at adoption from institutional care are discussed for multiple domains of social and behavioral development within the context of several prominent developmental hypotheses about the effects of early deprivation (cumulative effects, experience-expectant developmental programming, and experience-adaptive developmental programming). Age at adoption effects are detected in a majority of studies, particularly when children experienced global deprivation and were assessed in adolescence. For most outcomes, institutionalization beyond a certain age is associated with a step-like increase in risk for lasting social and behavioral problems, with the step occurring at an earlier age for children who experienced more severe levels of deprivation. Findings are discussed in terms of their concordance and discordance with our current hypotheses, and speculative explanations for the findings are offered.

Keywords

Age at adoption Institutional deprivation Orphanage Early experience Developmental programming 

Abbreviations

PI

Post-institutionalized

DSP

Deprivation-specific problems

I/O

Inattention/overactivity

RAD

Reactive attachment disorder

DSB

Disinhibited social behavior

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by NICHD grants HD39017 and HD050212 to Robert B. McCall and Christina J. Groark. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NICHD or NIH. The author is grateful to Robert B. McCall, Celia Brownell, Susan B. Campbell, Daniel S. Shaw, and Junlei Li for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of Child DevelopmentUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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