Foster Care Shown to Improve Development in Children

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

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Nicole


    April 7th, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    Although nothing can match the setting of a regular family for a child, I agree with the finding that foster care is much better than other options such as an orphanage.

    In a setting like the one in an orphanage, a child is just one of the many children present there and the care-takers are like teachers…they are the same for all the kids in the orphanage… But when under foster care, a child has someone who he/she can consider to be a parent and can be closer to than if the child is in an orphanage. Also, because the child is the responsibility of a particular family, the child will have better access to nutritious food and other developmental activities.

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