The Psychological Effects of Early Institutional Rearing

Michael Rutter

in The Development of Social Engagement

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195168716
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847853 | DOI:

Series: Series in Affective Science

The Psychological Effects of Early Institutional Rearing

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Institutional upbringing is seen to greatly affect psychological development in children. Despite the reduction in the negative effects of early institutional rearing observed in children subsequently brought up in a good-quality adoptive home, significant deficits stay in a small percentage of children. Institutional rearing could cause cognitive impairment only when there is global deprivation of learning experiences and subnutrition, which both could lead to diminished head growth, hence limited brain growth. Findings in this chapter suggest that adequate experiential input is critical to normal cognitive development and brain growth for the biological programming of the neural structure that underpins them. In some related studies, however, disinhibited attachment is more likely developed with institutional rearing, even without global deprivation. The rotation of multiple caregivers during institutional care inhibits the normal development of selective attachment, an effect that is not completely removed by a subsequent upbringing in a good-quality family environment.

Keywords: institutional rearing; psychological development; children; cognitive impairment; brain growth; disinhibited attachment; institutional care; selective attachment; family environment

Chapter.  16439 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuropsychology

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