Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 12, pp 3245–3267 | Cite as

Predictors of Better Functioning among Institutionalized Youth: A Systematic Review

  • Anna W. WrightEmail author
  • Simron Richard
  • David W. Sosnowski
  • Wendy Kliewer
Review Paper



The majority of research on youth in institutional care has focused on negative developmental outcomes. However, experiencing institutional care does not guarantee detrimental results. A growing body of literature has examined outcomes among youth who have spent a period of time in institutional care with the goal of identifying positive functioning, or development in line with children reared in more traditional family homes. The goal of this paper was to review and critique the literature examining predictors of better-than-expected adjustment of children who have experienced institutional care.


A literature search was conducted across PsycINFO, PubMed, CINAHL Complete, and Web of Science, following the PRISMA guidelines. Studies conducted with youth residing in full-time institutional care at the time of the study, and which examined at least one positive outcome were included. A rating system was used to evaluate and compare study quality across manuscripts.


A systematic search of the literature returned 38 unique studies for review. Findings support the possibility of typical adjustment for youth who experience institutional care, the presence of protective factors, and the success of interventions in improving outcomes within this setting.


The reviewed studies suggest that better-than-expected outcomes are possible amongst youth residing in institutional care when certain factors are present. However, many limitations exist within the current research. Future directions for advancing the study of youth adjustment within institutional care are discussed.


Orphanage Institutional care Positive adjustment Positive outcome Systematic review 


Author Contributions

A.W.W. designed and executed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the initial draft. S.R. assisted with data analysis, acted as the second reviewer for all included studies, and helped with initial manuscript preparation. D.W.S and W.K served as third reviewers when necessary to resolve discrepancies between the first and second reviewer, and contributed feedback and revisions for all manuscript drafts.

Compliance with Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

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