Rutter et al (1998) - Romanian Orphan Study

  • Created by: KarenL78
  • Created on: 22-11-17 12:51

Overview / Aim / Method:

  • Rutter and his team were interested in seeing whether the effects of institutional care and privation could be overcome by long-term provision of a more nurturing and enriching environment.


  • To assess whether loving and nurturing care could overturn the effects of privation the children had suffered in Romanian orphanages.


  • Longitudinal study showing development trends (changes over time) incorporating a quasi-experiment.  
  • The IV was the age of adoption, with 3 age groups being studied:

Condition 1:  Children adopted before the age of 6 months.

Condition 2:  Children adopted between 6 months - 2 years.

Condition 3:. Children adopted after 2 years.

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Method Cont. / Results:

  • The DV was the children's level of cognitive functioning.
  • 111 Romanian orphans were initially assessed for height, head circumference and cognitive functioning on arrival in Britain.
  • All children were again assessed at age 4.
  • Control group of 52 British adopted children were also assessed (to ascertain whether negative effects wre due to separation from carers or the institutional conditions).


  • Around 50% of Romanian orphans were retarded in cognitive functioning at initial assessment and most were underweight.  The control group did not show these deficits.
  • At age 4 years, the Romanian orphans showed great improvement in physical and cognitive development, with orphans adopted before 6 months of age doing as well as the British children.
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Conclusions & Evaluation:


  • The negative effects of instituionalisation can be overcome by sensitive, nurturing care.
  • As the British adopted children (who had been separated from their mothers) did not suffer developmental outcomes, it can be seen that separation from carers will not, on it's own cause negative developmental effects.


  • Children have only been assessed up to age 4 years, so subsequent follow ups will be required to assess the long-term effects of institutionalisation and the subsequent enriching environments.  Follow ups in 2001 and 2007 (see notes).
  • Only some of the children recieved detailed clinical investigations, so it is difficult to generalise the findings.
  • Because the children were not studied in the Romanian orphanages, it's not possible to state which aspects of privation were most influential.
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