Skip to main content

Cognitive Development and Social-Emotional Functioning in Young Foster Children: A Follow-up Study from 2 to 3 Years of Age

Abstract

Foster children (FC) are at risk of delayed development relative to their peers due to early caregiver disruptions and adverse experiences prior to placement. Descriptive analyses and linear mixed effects (LME models) were used to analyse the cognitive development and social-emotional functioning of 60 FC and 42 comparison children (CC) at 2 (T1) and 3 years (T2). Changes in group differences between T1 and T2 were examined, and significant group differences occurred on all cognitive scales, with the FC obtaining lower scores than the CC. An analysis of social-emotional functioning revealed significantly more externalising, dysregulation behaviour and poorer competencies among the FC, which exhibited significantly better cognitive abilities and competencies at T2 than T1, with the exception of receptive language. The FC did not demonstrate more negative social-emotional behaviour at T2 (apart from more internalisation behaviour), but failed to catch up with the CC. Young foster children need screening and support to improve their developmental potential.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Fox NA, Almas AN, Degnan KA, Nelson CA, Zeanah CH (2011) The effects of severe psychosocial deprivation and foster care intervention on cognitive development at 8 years of age: findings from the bucharest early intervention project. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 52(9):919–928

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Oswald SH, Heil K, Goldbeck L (2010) History of maltreatment and mental health problems in foster children: a review of the literature. J Pediatr Psychol 35(5):462–472

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Barber JG, Delfabbro PH (2009) The profile and progress of neglected and abused children in long-term foster care. Child Abuse Negl 33(7):421–428

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Smyke AT, Breidenstine AS (2009) Foster care in early childhood. In: Zeanah CH (ed) Handbook of infant mental health, 3rd edn. Guilford Press, New York, pp 500–515

    Google Scholar 

  5. Harwicke NJ, Hochstadt NJ (1986) Intellectual functioning in abused-neglected children. Education 107(1):76–82

    Google Scholar 

  6. Leslie LKMD, Gordon JNMA, Lambros KPD, Premji KBS, Peoples JBA, Gist KMS (2005) Addressing the developmental and mental health needs of young children in foster care. Dev Behav Pediatr 26(2):140–151

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Lloyd E, Barth RP (2011) Developmental outcomes after five years for foster children returned home, remaining in care, or adopted. Child Youth Serv Rev 33(8):1383–1391

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Pears K, Fisher PA (2005) Developmental, cognitive, and neuropsychological functioning in preschool-aged foster children: associations with prior maltreatment and placement history. J Dev Behav Pediatr 26(2):112–122

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Gunnar MR, Bruce J, Grotevant HD (2000) International adoption of institutionally reared children: research and policy. Dev Psychopathol 12(4):677–693

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Shonkoff JP, Phillips DA (2000) From neurons to neighborhoods: the science of early childhood development. National Academy Press, Washington

    Google Scholar 

  11. Nelson CA III, Zeanah CH, Fox NA, Marshall PJ, Smyke AT, Guthrie D (2007) Cognitive recovery in socially deprived young children: the Bucharest early intervention project. Science 318(5858):1937–1940

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Rutter M (1998) Developmental catch-up, and deficit, following adoption after severe global early privation. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 39(4):465–476

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Rutter M, Beckett C, Castle J, Colvert E, Kreppner J, Mehta M et al (2009) Effects of profound early institutional deprivation: an overview of findings from a UK longitudinal study of Romanian adoptees. In: Neil E, Wrobel GM (eds) International advances in adoption research for practice. Wiley-Blackwell, London, pp 147–167

    Google Scholar 

  14. Gunnar MR (2010) A Commentary on deprivation-specific psychological patterns: effects of institutional deprivation. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev 75(1):232–247

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Fox NA, Almas AN, Degnan KA, Nelson CA, Zeanah CH (2011) Commentary response: handling long-term attrition in randomised controlled field trials: novel approaches by BEIP and a response to McCall. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 52(9):931–932

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Dozier M, Bick J (2007) Changing caregivers: coping with early adversity. Psychiatric Annals 37(6):411–415

    Google Scholar 

  17. Newton RR, Litrownik AJ, Landsverk JA (2000) Children and youth in foster care: disentangling the relationship between problem behaviours and number of placements. Child Abuse Negl 24(10):1363–1374

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. McWey LM, Cui M, Pazdera AL (2010) Changes in externalizing and internalizing problems of adolescents in foster care. J Marriage Fam 72(5):1128–1140

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Smyke AT, Zeanah CH Jr, Fox NA, Nelson CA III (2009) A new model of foster care for young children: the Bucharest early intervention project. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 18(3):721–734

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Pears KC, Kim HK, Leve LD (2012) Girls in foster care: risk and promotive factors for school adjustment across the transition to middle school. Child Youth Serv Rev 34(1):234–243

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Pears KC, Kim HK, Fisher PA (2008) Psychosocial and cognitive functioning of children with specific profiles of maltreatment. Child Abuse Negl 32(10):958–971

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Heller SS, Smyke AT, Boris NW (2002) Very young foster children and foster families: clinical challenges and interventions. Infant Ment Health J 23(5):555–575

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Dozier M, Albus K, Fisher PA, Sepulveda S (2002) Interventions for foster parents: implications for developmental theory. Dev Psychopathol 14(4):843–860

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Jee SH, Szilagyi M, Ovenshire C, Norton A, Conn A-M, Blumkin A et al (2010) Improved detection of developmental delays among young children in foster care. Pediatrics 125(2):282–289

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Lawrence CR, Carlson EA, Egeland B (2006) The impact of foster care on development. Dev Psychopathol 18(1):57–76

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Ghera MM, Marshall PJ, Fox NA, Zeanah CH, Nelson CA, Smyke AT et al (2009) The effects of foster care intervention on socially deprived institutionalized children’s attention and positive affect: results from the BEIP study. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 50(3):246–253

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Bernedo IM, Salas MD, Garcia-Martin MA, Fuentes MJ (2012) Teacher assessment of behavior problems in foster care children. Child Youth Serv Rev 34(4):615–621

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Horowitz SM, Simms MD, Farrington R (1994) Impact of developmental problems on young children’s exits from foster care. J Dev Behav Pediatr 15(2):105–110

    Google Scholar 

  29. Stovall-McClough K, Dozier M (2004) Forming attachments in foster care: infant attachment behaviors during the first 2 months of placement. Dev Psychopathol 16(2):253–271

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Oosterman M, Schuengel C, Slot N, Bullens RA, Doreleijers TA (2007) Disruptions in foster care: a review and meta-analysis. Child Youth Serv Rev 29(1):53–76

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Vanschoonlandt F, Vanderfaeillie J, Van Holen F, De Maeyer S, Andries C (2012) Kinship and non-kinship foster care: differences in contact with parents and foster child’s mental health problems. Child Youth Serv Rev 34(8):1533–1539

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Horwitz SM, Balestracci KM, Simms MD (2001) Foster care placement improves children’s functioning. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 155(11):1255–1260

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Triseliotis J (1984) Identity and security in adoption and long-term fostering. Early Child Dev Care 15(2–3):149–170

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Triseliotis J (2002) Long-term foster care or adoption? The evidence examined. Child Fam Soc Work 7(1):23–33

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Barber J, Delfabbro P (2005) Children’s adjustment to long-term foster care. Child Youth Serv Rev 27(3):329–340

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Bada HS, Langer J, Twomey J, Bursi C, Lagasse L, Bauer CR et al (2008) Importance of stability in early living arrangements on behavior outcomes of children with and without prenatal drug exposure. J Dev Behav Pediatr 29(3):173–182

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Statistics Norway (2012) 08392: children moved during the year of children placed outside their own home, by age and times moved (2009–2011)

  38. Statistics Norway. Child welfare (2010): 7 Children with measures from the Child Welfare Services per 31 December, by age and type of assistance. 2010 2011; Available from: http://www.ssb.no/english/subjects/03/03/barneverng_en/tab-2011-06-27-07-en.html

  39. US Department of Health and Human Services (2012) Child welfare outcomes 2006–2009: Report to Congress. US department of health and human services, Washington

    Google Scholar 

  40. Beckett C, Castle J, Rutter M, Sonuga-Barke EJ (2010) Institutional deprivation, specific cognitive functions, and scholastic achievement: english and Romanian Adoptees (ERA) study findings. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev 75(1):125–142

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Haus I (2005) PRIDE. Et utvelgelses- og opplæringsprogram for fosterforeldre [PRIDE. A selection and training programme for foster parents] In: Schjelderup LE, Omre C, Marthinsen E, editors. Nye metoder i et moderne barnevern [New methods in a modern child welfare]. Fagbokforl., Bergen. pp 283

  42. Tronick EZ, Beeghly M (1999) Prenatal cocaine exposure, child development, and the compromising effects of cumulative risk. Clin Perinatol 26(1):151–171

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Mullen EM (1995) Mullen Scales of early learning AGS Edition. NCS Pearson Inc., Minneapolis

    Google Scholar 

  44. Carter AS, Briggs-Gowan MJ (2006) ITSEA. Infant-toddler social and emotional assessment. PsychCorp, San Antonio

    Google Scholar 

  45. Pinheiro JC, Bates DM (2000) Mixed-Effects Models in S and S-PLUS. Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  46. Pears KC, Heywood CV, Kim HK, Fisher PA (2011) Prereading deficits in children in foster care. Sch Psychol Rev 40(1):140–148

    Google Scholar 

  47. Moe V (2002) Foster-placed and adopted children exposed in utero to opiates and other substances: prediction and outcome at four and a half years. J Dev Behav Pediatr 23(5):330–339

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Flynn JR (1990) Massive IQ gains on the Scottish WISC: evidence against Brand et al’.s hypothesis. Irish. J Psychol 11(1):41–51

    Google Scholar 

  49. Fish B, Chapman B (2004) Mental health risks to infants and toddlers in foster care. Clin Soc Work 32(2):121–140

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Havnen KS, Breivik K, Stormark KM, Jakobsen R (2011) Why do children placed out-of-home because of parental substance abuse have less mental health problems than children placed for other reasons? Child Youth Serv Rev 33(10):2010–2017

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Gunnar MR (2007) Stress effects on the developing brain. Adolescent psychopathology and the developing brain: Integrating brain and prevention science. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 127–147

    Book  Google Scholar 

  52. Pears KC, Fisher PA (2005) Emotion understanding and theory of mind among maltreated children in foster care: evidence of deficits. Dev Psychopathol 17(1):47–65

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Rubin DM, O’Reilly ALR, Luan X, Localio AR (2007) The impact of placement stability on behavioral well-being for children in foster care. Pediatrics 119(2):336–344

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  54. van IJzendoorn MH, Juffer F (2006) The Emanuel Miller Memorial Lecture 2006: adoption as intervention. Meta-analytic evidence for massive catch-up and plasticity in physical, socio-emotional, and cognitive development. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 47(12):1228–1245

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Zeanah CH, Shauffer C, Dozier M (2011) Foster care for young children: why it must be developmentally informed. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 50(12):1199–1201

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Giovannoni J (1989) Definitional issues in child maltreatment. Child maltreatment: Theory and research on the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 3–37

    Book  Google Scholar 

  57. Lewis EE, Dozier M, Ackerman J, Sepulveda-Kozakowski S (2007) The effect of placement instability on adopted children’s inhibitory control abilities and oppositional behavior. Dev Psychol 43(6):1415–1427

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Horwitz SM, Owens P, Simms MD (2000) Specialized assessments for children in foster care. Pediatrics 106(1):59–66

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This project has been financially supported by the National Network for Infant Mental Health, Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Eastern & Southern Norway; the Norwegian ExtraFoundation for Health and Rehabilitation through EXTRA funds, as well as funds from the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion. This study was approved by the National Committees for Research Ethics and the Norwegian Social Science Data Services.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Heidi Jacobsen.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Jacobsen, H., Moe, V., Ivarsson, T. et al. Cognitive Development and Social-Emotional Functioning in Young Foster Children: A Follow-up Study from 2 to 3 Years of Age. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 44, 666–677 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-013-0360-3

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-013-0360-3

Keywords

  • Foster children
  • Cognitive development
  • Social-emotional functioning
  • Toddlers
  • Developmental catch-up