The effects of some types of institutionalized care on children have been documented as potentially debilitating in the past, with consequences noted for both the physical and psychological health of young people who are raised outside of the typical family environment. In a report just published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a research team investigated the differences in developmental growth and related factors in children who were either studied in foster care setting or who were residents of an orphanage.
Researchers followed the children as they were given care in both environments, and the quality of this care was measured in terms of positive regard for the child and other factors believed to be influential for the participants’ psychological well-being. Both study groups were compared against a third sample that included children who were not institutionalized. The study found that those children in the foster care system exhibited significant improvement in height, weight, and weight to height ratios, which further predicted improvements in cognitive abilities and IQ scores as measured through interactions with the caregiver. A corresponding relationship between height and IQ was in fact so significant that researchers were able to notice an average of over twelve verbal IQ points for every one unit of growth in height.
The study underscores the importance of providing children with adequate social support and care along with other basic needs such as nutrition. Citing social deprivation as a major cause of developmental problems in institutionalized children, the study’s principal investigator also noted that such issues can occur within family settings, where educating parents about the importance of social and emotional care may prove equally important as raising awareness and understanding of risks of medical diseases.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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