Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1080–1087 | Cite as

Iron Deficiency After Arrival is Associated with General Cognitive and Behavioral Impairment in Post-Institutionalized Children Adopted from Eastern Europe

  • Anita J. FuglestadEmail author
  • Michael K. Georgieff
  • Sandra L. Iverson
  • Bradley S. Miller
  • Anna Petryk
  • Dana E. Johnson
  • Maria G. Kroupina


To investigate the role of iron deficiency in general cognitive and behavioral development in post-institutionalized (PI) children during the early post-adoption period. PI children (N = 57) adopted from Eastern Europe or Central Asia (9–46 months of age) were seen at baseline around 1 month after arrival into the US and at follow-up 6 months later. Measures included anthropometry, iron status, the Toddler Behavior Assessment Questionnaire-R (TBAQ-R), the Mullen Scales of Early Learning, and examiner-rated behaviors during testing. 26 % were iron deficient at baseline; 18 % were iron deficient at follow-up. There was a trend for those with iron deficiency at baseline to be more fearful on the TBAQ-R. Those with iron deficiency at follow-up displayed more hyperactivity on both the TBAQ-R and the examiner-rated behaviors. Those with iron deficiency at follow-up were more likely to score below average on the Mullen Early Learning Composite (iron deficient: 80 %; good iron status: 32 %). The association between iron status at follow-up and the Mullen Early Learning Composite was mediated by inattention and hyperactivity behaviors during testing. Iron deficiency is associated with neurobehavioral alterations months after arrival, mediated by the effect on attention and activity levels. Iron status needs to be monitored at least through the first half-year post-adoption, particularly in children exhibiting rapid catch-up growth. Additionally, developmental evaluation is recommended in those with iron deficiency, even in children with good iron status at arrival.


Iron deficiency Behavior Development Institutional care Adoption 



This work was funded in part by a grant from the Genentech Center for Clinical Research in Endocrinology to AP, in part by a grant from the Gerber Foundation to MG, in part by a Center for Neurobehavioral Development, University of Minnesota, pre-doctoral training grant to AF, and in part by M01-RR00400 National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health, to the General Clinical Research Center at the University of Minnesota. The study sponsors did not have a role in design and conduct of the study, collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data, or preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript. The authors would like to thank the children and their adoptive parents for participating in this research study. They would also like to thank the clinical and research staff for their efforts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita J. Fuglestad
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael K. Georgieff
    • 2
  • Sandra L. Iverson
    • 3
  • Bradley S. Miller
    • 4
  • Anna Petryk
    • 4
  • Dana E. Johnson
    • 2
  • Maria G. Kroupina
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute of Child DevelopmentUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric NeonatologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of PediatricsUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric EndocrinologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  5. 5.Department of Pediatrics, Division of Global PediatricsUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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